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Shakespeare’s religious thinking is like a curious whisper. You need to listen deeply to hear.

Caliban begs his fellow island dwellers to listen to the noise of the “Tempest.” The role of William Shakespeare as a print collector / Getty Images religious guide is unclear. The work of the bard celebrating his birthday on April 23 has been scrutinized at various times over the last four centuries for a coded message about Catholicism, Puritanism, or the Anglican Church, but more generally. The view is that his stunning exploration of mankind leaves little space. For serious reflection on divinity. Indeed, some Shakespearean scholars have gone a step further, suggesting that his work presents a clear atheism. But as a theologian who published a book exploring Shakespeare’s treatment of faith, I believe that the playwright’s highest religious urges have not been shown in either coded affirmations or simple denials. The greatest remarks about Shakespeare’s faith in times of great religious polarization and turmoil are like curious whispers, and like whispers, you need to listen deeply to hear them. Religious Fuss In one of Shakespeare’s most unusual plays, The Tempest, you’ll see an invitation to this deep listening. “Don’t be afraid,” Caliban, a half-human half-beast, told his companions who arrived at the island where the play was set, “The island is full of joyful, unhurting noise, sound, and sweet air.” I will talk. It’s an impressive passage, more and more from stinking creatures that have been accused of rape attempts and are repeatedly called “monsters.” But in it, Shakespeare seems to suggest that there is a dimension of reality that many of us have missed-and it may be surprising to know who is paying attention to us. .. These subtleties appear differently throughout Shakespeare’s play. “Romeo and Juliet” is not a theological play. But when the tragedy reaches a solemn tragedy, there is the saying, “See, what tragedy lies in your hatred, that heaven finds a way to kill your joy with love.” Although there is no definite name for God or fate, Shakespeare implies great power to transcend the destructive feud between the family of two lovers, Montague and Caplet. He casts doubt on the earthly powers of the two homes-he suggests that heaven also works here. I believe Shakespeare was constantly looking for subtle ways to imagine God’s intervention within the human realm. This is even more impressive given the religious times he lived in. Closet Catholic or atheist? Or is it more complicated? Photo courtesy of Hulton Archive / Getty Images In the second half of the 16th century, there was an even greater religious and political polarization than we did. Decades ago, Henry VIII separated the Anglican Church from Rome and founded Protestant England. His daughter Elizabeth, who took the throne in the first half of Shakespeare’s writing, was excommunicated by Pope Pius V for following in the footsteps of his father. The Queen responded by criminalizing Catholic practice in England. As a result, artists who want to engage in religious themes are severely restricted, even before James I, the successor to Elizabeth, outlaws explicit theological humor and criticism on the stage. Was there. These cataclysms had a direct impact on Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s family had deep ties to Roman Catholicism, perhaps as some of his closest companions did. All of them were to put themselves on suspicion of rebellion to raise doubts about Anglican prayers, or even to avoid Anglican dioceses on Sundays. There are few biographical details to help scholars looking for Shakepia’s religious beliefs. Instead, they have generally relied on well-known religious languages ​​and letter types, such as explicit references to the Catholic priests of “Romeo and Juliet,” in inferring Shakespeare’s beliefs. .. Some suggest that his play clues and chords suggest that the playwright was a Catholic in the closet. But for me, Shakespeare’s theologically most interesting thing is where he finds a new way to say what he doesn’t say, or what he’s old. The faith of “God’s Spy” Shakespeare and how he expresses it is explored in a 2017 play by theologian and former Anglican poet Rowan Williams. In it, Williams imagines a young Shakespeare looking for a new language for religious things and is dissatisfied with the terribly politicalized options in front of him. On an important occasion, “Young Will” explains to Jesuit leaders that he cannot participate, despite the charm of their radical Catholic cause. However, there are still people around me who want to hear their own voice, and it seems that not all speak one language or tell a story. When you try what you’re doing, it bothers me. There’s always more than the old religion can say, and it still had to be heard, so I look away from the pain and questions. In other words, while Catholics “talk” to young Will, he believes there is more than “still have to hear.” I believe that the voice that William Shakespeare wants to hear is similar to what Caliban speaks in The Tempest. So young Will does not join the Catholic cause. Instead, he goes looking for ways to stay in “pain and problems.” Williams suggests that Shakespeare’s subsequent plays are an attempt to “hear” all these complex and difficult voices. They are his attempt to voice religious noise beyond the religious certainty of his age. [Over 100,000 readers rely on The Conversation’s newsletter to understand the world. Sign up today.] This can be seen in “King Leah”. Lear spends the entire play cursing the gods because of the lack of love and the lack of respect his children show him. But when the rants that curse heaven finally subside, the play gives the audience a beautiful and painful reconciliation scene with their daughter Cordelia. He found some sort of higher vantage point in his daughter’s forgiveness. From there, they may both “take over the mystery of things as if we were spies of God.” Like the Caliban in “Tempest,” Lear learns to hear voices outside the reach of humans. Similarly, Shakespeare asks the audience to hear and see in other ways, as if we were a divine spy or a monster on Earth. The seminaries in the southwest are members of the Theological Seminary Association. ATS is a funding partner of The Conversation US. This article has been republished by The Conversation, a non-profit news site aimed at sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Southwestern Seminary, Anthony D. Baker. Read more: Does “translating” Shakespeare into modern English undermine its greatness? Shakespeare’s First Folio Anthony D. Baker’s Bizarre Fate, funded in the form of a grant from the Conant Foundation through the Episcopal Church for Shakespeare’s travel studies.