Religion In Shakespeare Essay

1216 words - 5 pages

The religion of William Shakespeare is a subject about which very few people have a complete understanding. His plays and poems contain an almost overwhelming number of biblical references and allusions to biblical thinking, which can be seen as either Protestant or Catholic in understanding. His concealment of various understandings and interpretations of religious ideology make it difficult to ascertain his own religious beliefs, however, through further analysis of [insert names of plays], once can begin to understand the socioeconomic issues he sought to raise through his biblical allusions.
Sandra Hole’s The Background of Divine Action in King Lear comments on how the play “is a ...view middle of the document...

They are characterised as the ‘good’ in the play. Conversely, the characters of Edmund, Goneril, Regan and Cornwall are portrayed as being the ‘bad’ characters of the play. They subvert the notion of divine intervention and, instead, bestow importance upon the self. They live in a world in which each individual person controls their own existence and manipulates their environment, and those in it, to fit their own purposes.
Kent, Albany and Edgar represent a complete belief in the gods and their beliefs are constant throughout the course of the play. Their belief in the gods is absolute; that they upholds moral correctness, protect and watch over mankind and stands against evil. Kent’s first act of godly invocation is in his desire for the gods to protect Cordelia. “The gods to their dear shelter take thee, maid, / That justly think’st and hast most rightly said!” (Shakespeare, Act I. Sc. 1, 182-183) His words lend support to her earlier response to Lear, in that she loves him as a father: “I […] / Obey you, love you, and most honour you. / Why have my sisters husbands, if they say / They love you all?” (1. 1. 90-93) Similarly, when Kent is placed in the stocks, he understands his imprisonment to be the work of the goddess of Fortune: “Fortune, good night; smile once more, turn thy wheel.” (2. 2. 156) His absolutist belief recurs in his explanation of the differences between Cordelia and her two sisters: “It is the stars, / The stars above us, govern our conditions. / Else one self mate and mate could not beget / Such different issues.” (4. 3. 32-35) Even in situations in which Kent’s religious belief is tested, he remains loyal to his convictions and the inevitability of right outdoing wrong. Shakespeare mirrors Kent’s loyalty to the gods to his loyalty to Lear; despite Lear’s wrongdoings, he still displays obdurate dedication and service.
Lear and Gloucester represent conflicting notions of religious adherence. Their comments and calls to the gods are changeable and oftentimes contradictory, varying from complete confidence in the gods’ existence to doubt. The nature of the main plot and the sub plot, a feature which Shakespeare experimented with in Hamlet, is utilised to full effect in the sense that Lear’s downfall is mirrored in Gloucester’s; they each have a similar fall from a position of power, suffer and are enlightened. They reject a child, suffer a torturous journey throughout the play, and this is concurrent with their religious ideologies; their ever-changing beliefs in the gods reflect the...

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