Awakening faith in Shakespeare : religion and enchantment in 'The winter's tale' and 'The tempest'
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This thesis considers The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest as William Shakespeare’s last great plays which foster re-enchantment for an age suffering spiritual disenchantment. Chapter 1 identifies a critical context for studying these between theological studies of the arts and literary-critical studies of Shakespeare and religion. Section 1 surveys David Brown’s work on religious enchantment and imagination through the arts. Section 2 takes in literary criticism’s turn to Shakespeare and religion. Section 3 explores recent theological studies of theatre and Shakespeare. Section 4 revives overlooked criticism from religious poets of the past. Chapter 2 introduces a progression of theoretical constructs that revitalize these plays as spiritually re-enchanting. Section 1 looks at affect theory as a means to understand the body-spirit relationship in the context of performance. Section 2 draws on Scott Crider’s reading of The Winter’s Tale as the performance of a complete ethical rhetoric demanding both theatrical and mythical interpretations. Section 3 expands T. G. Bishop’s study of the theatre of wonder as Shakespeare’s affective convergence of reason and emotion. Section 4 builds on the preceding sections to re-establish Renaissance alchemy as the most directive evidence for reading these plays as spiritually re-enchanting. Chapter 3 is my reading of The Winter’s Tale. I argue that a wondrous, alchemical reading of the play suggests Hermione dies and is bodily resurrected in the last scene. Paulina’s alchemical art is cryptic, but the resolution is a corporate miracle that re-enchants the audience through the awakening of faith. Chapter 4 is my reading of The Tempest. I identify Prospero as an all-powerful and benevolent alchemist who, instead of imposing vengeance on everyone within his control, at the end relinquishes his potent art in exchange for the less certain but greater spiritual enchantment of redemption through the free and loving act of forgiveness.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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