Monday, November 6, 2023

William Shakespeare*

William Shakespeare (1564―1616) is considered by many to be the greatest writer this world has ever known. All hype aside, he is easily one of the most influential.

His personal religious views can only be determined by things voiced by the characters in his plays, by what the persona of his sonnets expressed, and by his religious practice. According to the latter he would be seen as an Anglican Christian, although regular attendance at Church of England services was compulsory.

He would have heard the Bishop’s Bible regularly read in church, but based on the language of his plays he was also familiar with the Geneva Bible, a personal Bible not used in the church, but owned by individuals for devotional study. Shakespeare clearly spent much time reading this translation.

Being an Englishman of his age, he would certainly have seen himself as Christian. The following sonnet could only have been written by someone who did.

Sonnet 146

Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth,
[......] these rebel powers that thee array,
Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth,
Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?
Why so large cost, having so short a lease,
Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend?
Shall worms, inheritors of this excess,
Eat up thy charge? Is this thy body's end?
Then soul, live thou upon thy servant's loss
And let that pine to aggravate thy store;
Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross;
Within be fed, without be rich no more.
So shalt thou feed on Death, that feeds on men,
And, Death once dead, there's no more dying then.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about William Shakespeare: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.