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Godless Shakespeare

Godless Shakespeare
Your Price: $25.95 CDN
Author: Eric S. Mallin
Publisher: Continuum
Series: Shakespeare Now!
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 132
Pub. Date: 2007
ISBN-10: 0826490425
ISBN-13: 9780826490421

About the Book:

The works of Shakespeare are rocket-boosters to the brain and better therapy than self-help books. This book is a polemic reading of Shakespeare focusing on atheism, scepticism, and belief.

Godless Shakespeare is the first book to discuss Shakespeare's plays from an atheist perspective. Although it is clear that Shakespeare engaged with and deployed much of his culture's broadly religious interests — his language is shot through with biblical quotations, priestly sermonizing and Christian imagery — Eric Mallin argues that there is a profound absence of or hostility to God in his plays.

Following Dante's three part structure for The Divine Comedy — Hell represents expressions of religious faith in Shakespeare's plays, Purgatory sets out more sceptical positions, and Heaven shows articulations of godlessness — Eric Mallin traces a spiritual ascent from the unthinkingly devout to the atheistically spiritual. This polemical, vigorous account focuses on the moral and spiritual dilemmas of major characters, developing the often subtle transitions between belief, scepticism and atheism. Finally, Godless Shakespeare argues for the liberating potential of unbelief.

What people say:

"Always intriguing, usually provocative and occasionally infuriating, Godless Shakespeare is a brilliant meditation on Shakespeare's ways with his characters and the systems of moral values in which we place them. Mallin's Shakespeare is never constricted by conventional parameters of religion and belief but instead is a thoroughly original creator, demanding our engaged moral response to his creations. In Mallin's excitingly heterodox cosmology, Cleopatra and Aaron, Pericles and Isabella find themselves with unexpected companions in the new heaven, hell and purgatory in which Mallin arranges them. Thinking about Shakespeare and religion has never seemed such fun." — Peter Holland , Professor, Notre Dame University

"If Nietzsche were put in charge of Dante's afterlife, and then asked to find appropriate places for Shakespeare's characters, the result would be something like this. Eric Mallin's perverse and excoriating anti-metaphysic shows just how many settled assumptions about Shakespeare are overturned when religion in his plays is taken seriously. Audacious and innovative, Mallin conflates renaissance scepticism and modern atheism, scattering light and darkness equally as he sears Christianity with a torch lit from the Christian flame." — Graham Holderness, Professor, University of Hertfordshire, UK

"At last! An iconoclastic Shakespeare with a mind and spirit unconstrained by orthodox religion. Eric Mallin guides us through the undiscovered country where the bard's spirituality survives in and as unbelief. Godless Shakespeare is beautifully written, well-conceived, and irresistibly funny. I felt as though I were encountering the plays for the first time." — David Riggs, Professor Emeritus, Standford University

"Defying recent Catholic and Protestant claims to Shakespeare's endorsement, and challenging Stephen Greenblatt's claim that Renaissance atheism was merely a defensive shadow cast by Christianity, Mallin's wide-ranging book suggests that Shakespeare recognized Christianity as a defense against the burdens of unbelief, which has important values of its own. With its taxonomy of characters into a non-religious ethical hierarchy, Godless Shakespeare jauntily defies the conventional wisdom about a writer who himself typically defied such wisdom." — Robert Watson, Professor, University of California, Los Angeles

"Where is Shakespeare now? This question is the brief for a new series of short books from Continuum, an enterprising publisher trying to break down the border between academic literary criticism and books for the thoughtful general reader … Eric Mallin's Godless Shakespeare helpfully reminds us that the plays are fundamentally engaged with the art of being human and living in society, not with the different dispensations of the Catholic and Protestant churches." — The Sunday Telegraph

"The book is both fun and funny; it is often exciting and irreverent. Like Bruster's and Davis's books in the same series, it is able to stimulate thinking with a fairly light…touch. Hearing South Park's Eric Cartman weigh in on the Eucharist in a mostly relevant way was extremely pleasurable." — Robert Watson in Studies in English Literature

About the Author:

Eric S. Mallin is Associate Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin. He specializes in Shakespeare, cinema, and the nexus of sexuality and religion in the English Renaissance and beyond.