Faith in Shakespeare

Faith in Shakespeare

by Richard C. McCoy


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Faith in Shakespeare by Richard C. McCoy

Speculation about Shakespeare's own religious beliefs and responses to the Reformation have dominated discussions of faith in the playwright's work for decades. As a result, we often lose sight of what's truly important-the plays themselves. By focusing on those plays in several succinct, fluently written chapters, Richard McCoy reminds us of the spell-binding power inherent in works like Othello, As You Like It, and The Winter's Tale and shows why they continue to cause audiences to gladly exercise what Samuel Taylor Coleridge called the "willing suspension of disbelief."

Faith in Shakespeare ruminates on what it means to believe in the Bard's plays, exploring how their plots can be both preposterous and gripping, and how their characters seem more substantial and enduring than the people surrounding us in the theater. Informed by Coleridge's "poetic faith," the book discusses what this concept shares with religious faith and how it departs from recent historicist approaches to the dramatist's work. Faith in Shakespeare concentrates more on text than context, finding the afterlife of Shakespeare's language more vivid and engaging than theological controversies. The book confirms its convictions in literature's intrinsic powers by exploring the causes for our paradoxical belief in theater's potent but manifest illusions. Plays that ask their audience to "awake your faith" or "believe then, if you please" ultimately enable us to "mind true things by what their mockeries be." Rather than faith in God or the supernatural, McCoy argues that faith in Shakespeare is sustained and explained only by the complex, subtle, and entirely human power of poetic eloquence and dramatic performance.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780190218652
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 02/01/2015
Pages: 214
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Richard C. McCoy is Professor of English at Queens College and the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. He is the author of Alterations of State: Sacred Kingship in the English Reformation; The Rites of Knighthood: Literature and Politics of Elizabethan Chivalry; and Sir Philip Sidney: Rebellion in Arcadia.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Introduction: Faith in Shakespeare
Chapter 2: The Comedy of Errors and Illusion's Blessed Power
Chapter 3: As You Like It and Believing If You Please
Chapter 4: Othello and the Stakes of Tragedy
Chapter 5: The Winter's Tale and the Recovery of Faith
Epilogue: Theater's Potent Art

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