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Shakespeare: Ovid and the Bible

ENGL 535.301

Shakespeare via Ovid’s Metamorphoses and the Bible

That Shakespeare knew both his Ovid and his Bible is unquestionable.  But in what form did pagan myth and biblical revelation make their appearance on the Shakespearean stage?  This seminar will be situating several of Shakespeare’s plays between the Metamorphoses and Scripture in order to explore the mechanism at the heart of Shakespearean theatre: the human capacity to change, transform, and convert. We will begin with the medieval tradition of syncretism that read Ovid’s myths as allegories of Christian truths and found correspondences in their respective accounts of Creation, the Fall, and Endtime.  But our main focus will be on how Shakespeare staged divinity: both the Incarnate Christian God and the carnal pagan gods.

Texts will include: Genesis, Revelation, and Paul’s Epistles in the 1560 Geneva Bible; Ovid’s Metamorphoses in Arthur Golding’s 1567 translation, and several of Shakespeare’s plays, often in Folio and quarto editions:  The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titus Andronicus, Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice, Antony and Cleopatra, The Winter’s Tale.  

Requirements:  weekly assignments and two papers.




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