Undiscovered Country: Imagining the World to Come


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In the second case, almost literally so. These lost their grip on my imagination when I realized that in both cases, they reflected deeply held phobias and anxieties of a sort. The first was the fear of being buried alive those childhood tales of immurement had left a mark and the second was the fear of being lost or left alone yup, the childhood impress again.

Undiscovered Country: Imagining the World to Come

I had merely transferred my fears from the here and now to the hereafter—so vivid were they that I imagined them persisting endlessly, even after death. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email. Notify me of new posts via email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. Bookmark the permalink.

Like this: Like Loading December 20, at pm. Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Marotti find the interest in religion in Shakespeare studies less problematic.


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As any Shakespearean would readily admit, religion is not new to Shakespeare studies. What has changed? Matthew J. Despite the fact, then, that studies of religion or the religious in Shakespeare have attained a new legitimacy, notions of ambiguity persist. To illustrate this, I will take the liberty of returning to my work on Othello and Islam.

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But first, it needs to be said that in this study I am considering only references to the afterlife that do not appear as ghosts, dreams, or other aspects of the supernatural considered with such nuance in Hamlet in Purgatory. The Church of England required that at any religious service where no licensed preacher was available to preach a sermon, a homily should be read from the Book of Homilies.

The homilies were to be read in sequence, and when the sequence was completed, they would start again at the beginning.

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Othello replies, Cassio did top her; ask thy husband else. In destroying what he loved best, he loses his soul.

As he calls out to his servant Eros to help him enact his suicide, he says, I come, my queen Stay for me:. This, of course, is a Roman afterlife, Elysium, where the shades of the valiant live on in honor. For her, as for Antony, the afterlife is a place where their great spirits will live together forever.


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  6. There is tragic loss in Antony and Cleopatra , but the loss derives less from their deaths than from their stature that emerges in part from their epic visions of the afterlife. On the night before the battle of Agincourt, King Henry appears among his troops in disguise. Three of his soldiers come in reflecting on what happens to men who die in battle. They speculate that the king faces battles with fears like their own and that, like them, he would rather be anywhere else.

    The soldiers question the degree to which they are accountable if the cause is not just and honorable. The afterlife envisioned here is not simply heaven or hell but the day of final judgment—the end of days—when, according to Christian dogma, the resurrection of the body will occur. Each man is accountable for his own soul. This statement speaks directly to Christian doctrine as presented in the first Book of Homilies. Liii v. It seems, thus, that readiness in the face of death is all.

    Indeed, some are mere glimpses, but glimpses that help us to understand central issues in the plays. Glimpses of divine judgment in some plays are not deferred to the end of days. Such is the case in The Merchant of Venice. This Christian promise of heaven salvation is unavailable to the Jew, whose sense of judgment and consequences is impossibly opposite.

    To deny his oath is to perjure himself, and implicitly, to deny God. The importance of an oath and its relationship to the afterlife is complex. The Hebrew scripture as opposed to the King James Bible does not actually envision hell. To be reconciled with God requires righteousness, and God commands the righteous person to honor his oath: And Moses spake unto the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded.

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    If a man vow a vow unto the Lord, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth. On the day of the battle with Richmond in Richard III , Richard awakens disconcerted after his night of troubling dreams. For Macbeth, the moral universe is far more viable. He is less concerned about enacting murder than about being discovered. Strangely, Macbeth sees himself outside this divine economy.

    In Richard III and Macbeth , then, the protagonists give little more than lip service to Christian ideas of judgment and the afterlife, which points to the nature of their characters. In many respects this is fine: the world of both plays is steeped in evil. What happens to the afterlife, though, in plays immersed in religion? Among these, images of the afterlife evoke a kind of religious skepticism.

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