Thursday, September 29, 2005

Shakespeare and the Reformation

Hi Don,

I have to admit I've stalled a bit on MacCulloch's "The Reformation." It was a bit too big to haul on my recent trip to St. Louis, when I knew I was going to be lugging me and my stuff on Metrolink a fair amount.

But I did read "Will in the World" by Stephen Greenblatt, a recent biography of Shakespeare that attempted to piece together what is known documentarily about the playwright as well as speculation about him based on where and when he lived.

It made a nice companion piece about what we've been reading. Shakespeare has very little overt religious material in his plays, and examining the time he lived in, one might understand why. Of course, by being involved in theater at all he was taking a stand against the more Protestant clergy and laity in England. But he lived in very dangerous times. Greenblatt speculates that experiences with the secrecy and violence that plagued English religion made Shakespeare wary of religious experience and of leaving much of a paper trail at all.

At 800 pages, MacCulloch's book is still religious history in macrocosmic scale; to speculate about Shakespeare's life in this manner was to see the Reformation's effects on the life of a person who lived through it, and whose writings are world-famous today.

And who doesn't like to muse about why Shakespeare left his wife Anne the "second-best bed" in his will?


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