Brian Cummings*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In 1998 Harold Bloom described Shakespeare’s works as a “ secular scripture.â€whatever view may be held about Bloom’s general theory about Shakespeare and the invention of the “ human,â€He sums up a twentieth century consensus that is eloquently and compellingly expressed in 1904 by A. C. Bradley in his classic work, Shakespearean Tragedy The Elizabethan drama was almost wholly secular; and while Shakespeare was writing he practically confined his view to the world of non-theological observation and thought, so that he represents it substantially in one and the same way whether the period of the story is pre-Christian or Christian. Throughout the twentieth century the prevailing view of Shakespeare was that he was to be interpreted and studied outside of a religious context, that he saw the world in a “non-theologicalâ€Way. In part, as in Bradley, this was an observational stance based on a reading of the texts. None of Shakespeare’s plays takes a biblical subject, for instance, for its plot. There is no outwardly devotional or doctrinal theme. However, Bradley also participated in a theory of literature that increasing rigidity founded it self on a division between the secular and the religious. This was not, in Bradley’s case, out of any antireligious bias. In 1907—8 he delivered the Gifford Lectures at Glasgow on the subject of “Ideals of Religion.†Through an exploration of spirit, mind, idealism, truth, reality, and good and evil, he aimed to understand what religion is, and what human needs it seeks to satisfy. However, it was part of Bradley’s religious idealism to distinguish firmly in a philosophical sense between poetry and religion.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationShakespeare and Early Modern Religion
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages5
ISBN (Print)9781139208147
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

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