More Things in Heaven and Earth: Shakespeare, Theology, and the Interplay of Texts

Front Cover
University of Virginia Press, 2022 - Drama - 390 pages

Shakespeare's plays are filled with religious references and spiritual concerns. His characters--like Hamlet in this book's title--speak the language of belief. Theology can enable the modern reader to see more clearly the ways in which Shakespeare draws on the Bible, doctrine, and the religious controversies of the long English Reformation. But as Oxford don Paul Fiddes shows in his intertextual approach, the theological thought of our own time can in turn be shaped by the reading of Shakespeare's texts and the viewing of his plays.

In More Things in Heaven and Earth, Fiddes argues that Hamlet's famous phrase not only underscores the blurred boundaries between the warring Protestantism and Catholicism of Shakespeare's time; it is also an appeal for basic spirituality, free from any particular doctrinal scheme. This spirituality is characterized by the belief in prioritizing loving relations over institutions and social organization. And while it also implies a constant awareness of mortality, it seeks a transcendence in which love outlasts even death. In such a spiritual vision, forgiveness is essential, human justice is always imperfect, communal values overcome political supremacy, and one is on a quest to find the story of one's own life. It is in this context that Fiddes considers not only the texts behind Shakespeare's plays but also what can be the impact of his plays on the writing of doctrinal texts by theologians today. Fiddes ultimately shows how this more expansive conception of Shakespeare is grounded in the trinitarian relations of God in which all the texts of the world are held and shaped.

About the author (2022)

Paul S. Fiddes is Principal Emeritus and Senior Research Fellow, Regent?s Park College, Professor of Systematic Theology, University of Oxford, and author of several books, including Seeing the World and Knowing God: Hebrew Wisdom and Christian Doctrine in a Late-Modern Context.

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