Just how daring was Shakespeare in imagining – and testing – the limits of religious belief, order, faith, and divine powers in the widespread providential culture of early modern England?; In particular, what does a dark experimental tragedy like King Lear, set in a pre-Christian world, tell us about the later Shakespeare’s willingness to examine a brutal world in which neither a Christian God nor “the kind gods” (to borrow Gloucester’s words, 3.7.35) respond to human savagery and suffering and offer any hope of consolation?; What does this tragedy about extreme old age, the devastating loss of a king’s political authority, the fragility of human life, and the shattering of the moral order tell us about Shakespeare’s exploration of a world in which there indeed seems to be no ultimate role for “providence” in human affairs?; To what degree did tragic drama itself enable Shakespeare to speculate in exceptionally daring, radical, and skeptical ways about religious assurances and beliefs in relation to catastrophic events?; This chapter attempts to address these questions and to do something more: to argue that Shakespeare was capable of taking great risks when it came to dramatizing religious beliefs (or their absence) and daring enough to write a drama that imagines a dark, pitiless world without God or gods in an age in which providential thinking dominated religious culture.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Arts and Humanities(all)