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Shakespeare's Religious Language

R. Chris Hassel Jr. edited by Sandra Clark

DOI: 10.5040/9781472577283

ISBN: 9781472577269

Religious issues and discourse are key to an understanding of Shakespeare's plays and poems. This dictionary discusses over 1000 words and names in Shakespeare's works that have a religious connotation. Its unique word-by-word approach allows equal consideration of the full nuance of each of these words, from 'abbess' to 'zeal'. It also gradually reveals the persistence, the variety, and the sophistication of Shakespeare's religious usage.

Frequent attention is given to the prominence of Reformation controversy in these words, and to Shakespeare's often ingenious and playful metaphoric usage of them. Theological commonplaces assume a major place in the dictionary, as do overt references to biblical figures, biblical stories and biblical place-names; biblical allusions; church figures and saints.

'Given the saturation of Christian thought and symbol in Shakespeare's cultural lexicon, selecting the words and their meanings was perhaps more difficult for Hassel (Vanderbilt Univ.) than for other authors. Cloister, for example, may have obvious Christian significance, but the theological shades of meaning in words such as beneath or memory are far more subtle. This lexicographer does a fine job of illuminating these nuances, both with contextual references and contemporary commentary from writers such as Henry Bullinger, John Donne, and Lancelot Andrewes. Hassel has an expansive grasp of his material, making reference to both Catholic and Protestant sources, but he wisely refrains from trying to tease out Shakespeare's own beliefs. The extensive bibliography of primary and secondary sources is useful for advanced students and scholars. The specificity of the subject matter makes this a suitable purchase for libraries with comprehensive Shakespeare collections or that support intensive study of the early modern period. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through researchers/faculty.' CHOICE

'The great strength of Hassel's dictionary is that it is more than a dictionary, stepping past vocabulary into context... scrupulous in explaining what words need not mean...quicker and handier than an online concordance...and goes well beyond a dictionary's basic briefs; the helpfully selective bibliography is particularly strong on recent criticism... it should retain long-term value as a reference work, both for those in search of proof texts and those fascinated by the sinuous operation of Shakespearean religious metaphor.' Times Literary Supplement

'Chris Hassel is the right scholar to grasp the nettle of Shakespeare's religious language, since Hassel's authority where Shakespeare and religion are concerned is well established. This dictionary is a mine of helpful information, and everyone will learn something from it.' Shakespeare Quarterly

'Hassel routinely includes cross-references to a helpful list of primary and secondary sources ... A dazzling index of all the works included lists them under each of Shakespeare's individual works. The serendipity of browsing through this volume will open up the subject of Shakespeare and religion for even the most casual of readers, and the expert might discover something new.' Around the Globe

'With entries ranging from 'abbess' to 'zeal', this thorough and thoroughly engaging dictionary promises to enlighten anyone keen on exploring the topic of Shakespeare's religious language.' Early Modern Literary Studies

'This is an authoritative volume that will be an important addition to collections in Elizabethan literature and music.' American Reference Books Annual