Monday, July 27, 2020

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (1564―1616) is perhaps the greatest dramatist of all time. He was a member of the popular theatrical company The King’s Men who performed in the Globe Theatre on the south bank of the Thames. What is known about him is primarily drawn from his poems and plays, with only scant details coming from official records ― such as his baptism as an infant at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon on April 26, 1564.

It is hard to know much about Shakespeare’s own religious views, since much of what he wrote is voiced by diverse characters. Some have claimed that he was secretly a Catholic, others that he was Protestant ― "He was an orthodox, confirming member of the Church into which he had been baptised, was brought up and married, in which his children were reared and in whose arms he at length was buried." (A.L. Rowse) ― and still others hold that his primary concerns were artistic, and that faith issues for him were secondary.

Regardless, William Shakespeare wrote many passages which express faith values. The following speech, written in blank verse, is from The Merchant of Venice (Act 4, Scene 1) and is spoken by Portia.

The Quality of Mercy

-----The quality of mercy is not strained;
-----It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
-----Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest,—
-----It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
-----‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
-----The thronèd monarch better than his crown:
-----His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
-----The attribute to awe and majesty,
-----Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
-----But mercy is above this sceptred sway,—
-----It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings,
-----It is an attribute to God himself;
-----And earthly power doth then show likest God’s,
-----When mercy seasons justice.

In the lines that follow , Portia goes on to say,
-----That in the course of justice none of us
-----Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy,
-----And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
-----The deeds of mercy.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.