Shakespeare & Relgion Essay

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A name that is a household word, and a word that is on everybody's lips. How simple and straightforward! But then the inquiring mind starts to ask questions. Who precisely was Shakespeare? And what are the sorts of phenomena to which we apply the words religion and religious? Others abide our question. Thou art free. We ask and ask. Thou smilest and art still. True enough, the poet penned no memoirs; he merely left us Shakespeare's Complete Works. Whatever else he may have been, the author was a genius-of-all-trades, a human being who could do practically anything. Lyrics? The plays are full of lyrics. Sonnets? He left a whole volume of them. Narrative poems? When London was plague-ridden and the theaters, as hotbeds of contagion, had been closed, Shakespeare turned out two admirable specimens, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. And then consider his achievements as a dramatist. He could write realistically in the style of a dispassionate and often amused observer of contemporary life: he could dramatize biographies and historical chronicles; he could invent fairy stories and visionary fantasies; he could create (often out of the most unpromising raw material) huge tragic allegories of good and evil, in which almost superhuman figures live their lives and die their often sickening deaths. He could mingle sublimity with pathos, bitterness with joy and peace and love, intellectual subtlety with delirium and the cryptic utterances of inspired wisdom. And what about "religion"? The word is used to designate things as different from one another as Satanism and satori, as fetish-worship and the enlightenment of a Buddha, as the vast politico-theologic of financial organizations known as churches and the intensely private visions of an ecstatic. A Quaker silence is religion, so is Verdi's Requiem. A sense of the blessed All-Rightness of the

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