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The Bible in English Culture: the Age of Shakespeare

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNChapter (peer-reviewed)

Published
Publication date1/05/2016
Host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of the Age of Shakespeare
EditorsMalcolm Smuts
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford Handbooks Online
Pages384-397
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)978019966084
ISBN (Print)9780199660841
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

William Shakespeare’s thirty-nine plays contain numerous biblical references. Of the 151 English Psalms, for example, twenty-nine only receive no mention, while a total of about 350 phrases are quoted by Shakespeare from the remaining Psalms. The frequent mention of the Bible by a playwright such as Shakespeare was the outcome of four overlapping processes, explained in the chapter. First, there was the consolidation of the English biblical codex, largely in the context of the Reformation. Second, the Bible was propagated through church reading, widely prevalent catechisms and prayer books, as well as private and domestic reading—all of which rendered it widely familiar. Third, it is important to note the unprecedented scale of the dissemination, owing to mass print production. Finally, the chapter explains the processes of ‘Englishing’, whereby the biblical translations of the Tudor and early Stuart period rendered the ancient text in familiar terms, assisting its assimilation.