Faith in Shakespeare

Paperback | February 15, 2015

byRichard C. McCoy

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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 bookdiscusses 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 whattheir 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.

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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 remin...

Richard C. McCoy is Distinguished Professor of English at Queens College and the Graduate Center at the City University of New York.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:214 pages, 8.5 × 5.51 × 0.59 inPublished:February 15, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190218657

ISBN - 13:9780190218652

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Faith in Shakespeare2. The Comedy of Errors and Illusion's Blessed Power3. As You Like It and Believing If You Please4. Othello and the Stakes of Tragedy5. The Winter's Tale and the Recovery of FaithEpilogue: Theater's Potent ArtNotes

Editorial Reviews

"Recommended." --Choice