Shakespeare and Religion

This course is about how various understandings of religion (and religions) circulate through Shakespeare’s plays, as they were written, performed, and read, and as they have continued to be sometimes rewritten, performed, and read. We are not much interested in biography (there isn’t much biography to be interested in), and the course is not much interested in Shakespeare’s own religious beliefs (which seem to us unknowable). What is clear however is that religion is central in the plays; it haunts them (think Hamlet) and was in so many ways inescapable in Shakespeare’s England. Sometimes the plays register this fact in fundamental encounters of characters and ideas and sometimes in the sheer ordinariness in the dialogue (for example, the reflexive “God b’wi’ you” in leave taking). We read a number of plays (including Hamlet, Measure for Measure, and Othello), various historical sources, and theological and philosophical texts, as we try to understand how religion functions in these plays as an essential, but often perplexing dimension of early modern identity (and perhaps of our own).

Graduate Course #: 
W 3:30pm-5:20pm
New English Distribution: 
Renaissance Lit