Saturday, January 25, 2014

Shakespeare's religion

Yesterday (Friday) went to a paper by Richard Strier (author of, among other works, The Unrepentant Renaissance)  entitled "Mind, Nature, Heterodoxy and Iconoclasm in The Winter's Tale", the title expressing precisely the subject matter of the paper.

Strier argued that Shakespeare's religious position as outlined in the play was a mixture of the Catholic and Protestant and the answer to the question of who believed that mixture was -- Erasmus. A much admired figure at the beginning of the C16th and a much rejected one by the end of it. 

I was reminded of the Theological Incorrectness literature. But also Eamon Duffy's point in The Voices of Morebath that the Reformation division ran as within people as well as between them.

In the course of the paper, Strier stated that the first paid theatre tickets in world history were issued in England in the 1570s. A strong claim -- it made me wonder about whether China and Japan had theatre tickets earlier.

But the combination of an overtly commercial theatre and a theologically mixed play also made me wonder if Shakespeare was not also maximising audience appeal, making sure there was something for both the Catholically-inclined and Protestantly-inclined theatre-goer. 

I enjoyed the paper, which was clear, learned and thought-provoking presented with an engaging sense of fun. 

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