By David Scott Kastan
'A Will to think' is a revised model of Kastan's 2008 'Oxford Wells Shakespeare Lectures', delivering a provocative account of the ways that faith animates Shakespeare's plays.
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Additional resources for A Will to Believe: Shakespeare and Religion
None of this disproves that Hoghton’s beneﬁciary was William Shakespeare, but the evidence on offer hardly proves he is and tells us nothing, in any case, about what “William Shakeshafte” believed beyond what might be assumed from the fact of his Catholic employer. William Shakespeare did, however, leave his own will, which begins with an expression of faith—and this will is undeniably genuine. In the name of God Amen I William Shakespeare . . 48 This is as close as we can get to an expression of his own belief, and might well be taken as conclusive evidence, pace Davies, that, however he lived, he died a Protestant.
Richard III? Of course not. Timon? Certainly no. Isabella or Cleopatra? Falstaff, or Coriolanus, or any of the many Antonios? 197–8)? Certainly we have to avoid the circularity of identifying the lines that we think point to what Shakespeare himself believed by referring to what we have already decided he did believe and then seeing the rest as the result of his keen observation and skillful artistry. But often that is what we have done. However, the complex relationship between what a character is saying and what Shakespeare thought may be impossible to unravel, not least because inevitably some other character has said the opposite.
We now want to restore to him an interiority that has been . . well, what? Buried? Concealed? Obscured? But isn’t that somehow what interiority is? The part of us that is buried, concealed, obscured. To say (as I think) that Shakespeare’s faith is undiscoverable is perhaps little more than a truism. Or it might be thought an anachronism. The truism, it could be argued, is historically constructed and constrained; that it is only we (we moderns) who conceive of faith as inaccessible (and probably none of our business), the result of a process of secularization, still incomplete in Shakespeare’s time, that privatized religion.
A Will to Believe: Shakespeare and Religion by David Scott Kastan