Cockin, Janet Mary (2003)
M.Phil. thesis, University of Birmingham.
Christian values permeated all aspects of human activity in sixteenth century England; the basic truths of Christianity were largely unquestioned, and these would underlie the views on life and death, whether consciously formulated or not, of most of those who made up Shakespeare's first audiences.
I explore the ways in which Shakespeare responded to, and significantly departed from, his sources in four major tragedies with Christian (or non-pagan) backgrounds:
Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello and Macbeth. In the first chapter, I discuss the prevailing religious tensions in England as Shakespeare was growing up, and the theological instruction he is likely to have received. I examine the interaction of these theological ideas with the cultural exploration of ideas taking place in the English Renaissance. I discuss the spaces in which the plays were first performed, the likely composition of the early audiences and the restrictions of censorship.
Thereafter, taking the four plays in chronological order, I examine the ways in which Shakespeare used his sources, concentrating especially on the situations where
Christian ethics are of significance to the protagonists. I show that the Christian dimension enriches the sense of ambiguity and paradox that is at the heart of each play.
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