Unsettled Toleration

Brian Walsh
Oxford University Press
May 2016

Unsettled Toleration investigates how plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries grappled with the reality of a fractured Christendom some sixty years after the Reformation initiated by King Henry VIII. Through careful historical research and close literary analysis, Brian Walsh shows how the stage served as a space to imagine different ways that people came to terms with religious difference. The results were rarely what we today would recognize as benign toleration, but, as sensitive readings of plays by Shakespeare and other reveal, they were also much more complex, accommodating, and ethical than the unattainable and repressive ideal of spiritual uniformity promoted by the church and the government.