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Shakespeare's use of the Christian dimension in four major tragedies, and its dramatic effect on early audiences

Cockin, Janet Mary (2003)
M.Phil. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Abstract

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.

Type of Work:M.Phil. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Jowett, John
School/Faculty:Schools (1998 to 2008) > School of Humanities
Department:Shakespeare Institute
Subjects:PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
PR English literature
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:3109
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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