Shakespeare Jahrbuch 2018

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In the ‘Year of Luther’, the German Shakespeare Society also dedicated its annual meeting to the Reformation. Although Shakespeare did not address confessional issues explicitly, his plays – as well as those of his contemporaries – are impacted by the religious, cultural and political debates accompanying the process of confessionalization. Janet Clare investigates censorship during the Reformation and discusses, for a range of plays, how theological concepts are re-negotiated as instruments securing political order. Cornel Zwierlein’s analysis of Shakespearean drama traces three motifs that played a central role in English political theory after the Reformation: tyrannicide, the offence of crimen-laesae-majestatis, and the nature of sovereignty. Stephan Laqué’s essay focuses on the theological principle of hope in Hamlet, King Lear and The Tempest. In her reading of the trial scenes in King Lear, Elizabeth Hodgson explores the play’s references to apocalyptic ideas on the one hand, and to the contemporary controversy on the affective impact of theatre on the other. Richard Hillman reads Henri de Barran’s Reformation allegory Tragiqve comedie francoise de l’homme justifié par Foy (1554) as an intertext for The Merchant of Venice, which further accentuates the question of faith negotiated in Shakespeare’s play, namely the opposition between the Old and the New Testament. Using the example of Macbeth, Anne Enderwitz problematizes the relationship between economy, politics, and gender relations in the age of the Reformation. Isabel Karremann reads Antony and Cleopatra in the light of a fundamental change in the commemoration of the dead and the political instrumentalization of burial rites in Protestant England. In the last article of this special issue, Lieke Stelling discusses Tarlton’s Newes Out of Purgatory as an example of the humorous aspects of the religious debates of late sixteenth-century England.

Sabine Schülting