Reading Shakespeare's Will: The Theology of Figure from Augustine to the Sonnets

Overview

The most influential treatments of Shakespeare's Sonnets have ignored the impact of theology on his poetics, examining instead the poet's "secular" emphasis on psychology and subjectivity. Reading Shakespeare's Will offers the first systematic account of the theology behind the poetry. Investigating the poetic stakes of Christianity's efforts to assimilate Jewish scripture, the book reads Shakespeare through the history of Christian allegory.

To "read Shakespeare's will," ...

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Overview

The most influential treatments of Shakespeare's Sonnets have ignored the impact of theology on his poetics, examining instead the poet's "secular" emphasis on psychology and subjectivity. Reading Shakespeare's Will offers the first systematic account of the theology behind the poetry. Investigating the poetic stakes of Christianity's efforts to assimilate Jewish scripture, the book reads Shakespeare through the history of Christian allegory.

To "read Shakespeare's will," Freinkel argues, is to read his bequest to and from a literary history saturated by religious doctrine. Freinkel thus challenges the common equation of subjectivity with secularity, and defines Shakespeare's poetic voice in theological rather than psychoanalytic terms. Tracing from Augustine to Luther the religious legacy that informs Shakespeare's work, Freinkel suggests that we cannot properly understand his poetry without recognizing it as a response to Luther's Reformation. Delving into the valences and repercussions of this response, Reading Shakespeare's Will charts the notion of a "theology of figure" that helped to shape the themes, tropes, and formal structures of Renaissance literature and thought.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

MLR - John Roe

The writing is always dramatic and the argument presented with an eagerness.

Sixteenth Century Journal - Christopher Martin

By dislodging our ways of thinking about conventions of allegory and our status as readers generally, Reading Shakespeare's Will does the field of Renaissance studies a tremendous service. We will be reading--and discussing--Freinkel's book for a long time.

MLR
The writing is always dramatic and the argument presented with an eagerness.

— John Roe

Sixteenth-Century Journal
By dislodging our ways of thinking about conventions of allegory and our status as readers generally, Reading Shakespeare's Will does the field of Renaissance studies a tremendous service. We will be reading — and discussing — Freinkel's book for a long time.

— Christopher Martin

Sixteenth Century Journal - Christopher Martin
By dislodging our ways of thinking about conventions of allegory and our status as readers generally, Reading Shakespeare's Will does the field of Renaissance studies a tremendous service. We will be reading — and discussing — Freinkel's book for a long time.
Renaissance Quarterly - Gayle Gaskill

Freinkel's style is artful and original, her research is comprehensive, and her assertions are intriguing... her detailed observations and commentary read and reread Shakespeare's figurative language from multiple perspectives, which illustrate her postmodern celebration of the undying ambiguity of figural interpretation.

Studies in English Literature

Freinkel brilliantly reorganizes our understanding of "modern" subjectivity as expressed in Shakespeare's supposedly Petrarchan poetry... what this book accomplishes is a major shift in out understanding of Renaissance lyric.

Shakespeare Bulletin

Engaging, provocative, impressively learned, and heavily annotated... [Lisa Freinkel's] book does much relocate Shakespeare in relation to a theological tradition extending from St. Paul to Luther.

Sixteenth Century Journal

By dislodging our ways of thinking about conventions of allegory and our status as readers generally, Reading Shakespeare's Will does the field of Renaissance studies a tremendous service. We will be reading -- and discussing -- Freinkel's book for a long time.

— Christopher Martin

Renaissance Quarterly
Freinkel's style is artful and original, her research is comprehensive, and her assertions are intriguing... her detailed observations and commentary read and reread Shakespeare's figurative language from multiple perspectives, which illustrate her postmodern celebration of the undying ambiguity of figural interpretation.

— Gayle Gaskill

Marshall Grossman
An exhilarating ride . . . simply the best, most poetically and historically intelligent reading of the sonnets since Shakespeare's Perjured Eye.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231123259
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 1/23/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

Lisa Freinkel is assistant professor of English at the University of Oregon.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

PrefaceBibliography1. Augustine Under the Fig Tree2. Petrarch in the Shade of the Laurel3. Luther Disfiguring the Word4. Willful Abuse: The Canker and the Rose5. Will's Bondage: Anti-Semitism and "The Merchant of Venice"

Columbia University Press

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