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Solving Shakespeare’s riddles in The Comedy of Errors, Romeo and Juliet, King John, 1–2 Henry IV, The Merchant of Venice, Henry V, Julius Caesar, Othello, Macbeth and Cymberline
Author: Steve Sohmer

Knowing William Shakespeare better, we are better equipped to know his plays. Better knowing his plays brings us closer to knowing him. This book suggests that Shakespeare wrote not only for the mass audience, but simultaneously for that stratum of cognoscenti whom Gabriel Harvey dubbed 'the wiser sort.' It identifies many passages in the plays which Shakespeare resolves famous cruces which scholars have never been able to unravel, and casts new light on Shakespeare's mind and method. Shakespeare wrote into Julius Caesar more than one passage intelligible only to that handful of the wiser sort who had read Plutarch and knew their Suetonius. Into Macbeth Shakespeare injected a detail accessible only to the few intrepid souls brave or reckless enough to have cast the horoscope of King James I. We find a poem in Hamlet, where the prince invites his love and bandies matters of cosmology which were burning issues (literally) throughout Shakespeare's lifetime. While Julius Caesar's old Julian calendar prevailed in England its rival, the scientifically correct Gregorian reformed calendar, dominated most of Europe. Shakespeare suffused his plays with references to calendrical anomalies, as seen in Othello. By relating Shakespeare's texts, the Renaissance calendars and the liturgy, the book produces a lexicon apt for parsing the time-riddles in Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare handled religious subjects, examined and interrogated the dogmas of the received religions, and parodied the Crucifixion by exploiting Holinshed's account of the persecution and assassination of York.

Sir Philip Sidney and stoical virtue
Richard James Wood

, like Sidney, Duplessis-Mornay was a protégé of Languet, and, although Skretkowicz notes that Duplessis-Mornay ‘was very much a Huguenot political reformer who led from the front’, whereas Languet favoured ‘a politically realistic sense of tolerance and forgiveness’, they both may be said to have been ‘Politiques’. 6 Martin N. Raitière defines a ‘Politique’ as someone adopting ‘the conciliatory stance according to which national unity was to be placed above sectarian religious differences’; the Politiques were those French political activists ‘for whom no religious

in Sidney's Arcadia and the conflicts of virtue
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Shakespeare rewrites the Holy Ghost
Steve Sohmer

Even William Shakespeare’s earliest plays reveal a distancing of his mind from the religious dogmas of his age. In what may be his first drama, 3 Henry VI (1591), 1 Shakespeare parodied the Crucifixion. Though his principal historical source was Hall’s Chronicle, 2 Shakespeare exploited Holinshed’s account of the persecution and assassination ofYork

in Shakespeare for the wiser sort
Margret Fetzer

itself, is suspected of being the first reason for God’s ‘ravishment’ of Anne’s soul. Only outside of that social frame, one may conclude, is religious devotion possible – which is why even today Catholic clerics are expected to remain celibates. The ‘Holy Sonnets’ as theatres of their own Through an interpretation of Donne’s ‘Holy Sonnets’ as ‘autotheatrical’, I would like to suggest a denominationally neutral reading of these poems. Although Donne refused to elevate theologically controversial points to the status of religious dogma (Roston, 2007: 176), there is no

in John Donne’s Performances