Book: A Will to Believe: Shakespeare and Religion

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A Will to Believe: Shakespeare and Religion

David Scott Kastan, the George M. Bodman Professor of English Literature

(Oxford University Press)

“A Will to Believe,” based upon the inaugural series of the Oxford-Wells Shakespeare Lectures in 2008, offers an account of the ways in which religion animates Shakespeare’s plays.

Written and performed in a culture in which religion was inescapable, Shakespeare’s plays have usually been seen either as evidence of the author’s own disinterested secularism or, more recently, as coded signposts to his own sectarian commitments. “A Will to Believe” offers a consideration of how religion actually functions in them: not as keys to Shakespeare’s own faith but as registers of the various ways in which religion charged the world in which he lived. The book shows what we know and can’t know about Shakespeare’s own beliefs, and demonstrates, in a series of readings, how the often fraught and vertiginous religious environment of Post-Reformation England gets refracted by the lens of Shakespeare’s imagination.

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