Speculation about Shakespeare's own religious beliefs and responses to the Reformation have dominated discussions of faith in the playwright's work for decades. As a result, we often lose sight of what's truly important-the plays themselves. By focusing on those plays in several succinct, fluently written chapters, Richard McCoy reminds us of the spell-binding power inherent in works like Othello, As You Like It, and The Winter's Tale and
shows why they continue to cause audiences to gladly exercise what Samuel Taylor Coleridge called the "willing suspension of disbelief."
Faith in Shakespeare ruminates on what it means to believe in the Bard's plays, exploring how their plots can be both preposterous and gripping, and how their characters seem more substantial and enduring than the people surrounding us in the theater. Informed by Coleridge's "poetic faith," the book discusses what this concept shares with religious faith and how it departs from recent historicist approaches to the dramatist's work. Faith in Shakespeare concentrates more on
text than context, finding the afterlife of Shakespeare's language more vivid and engaging than theological controversies. The book confirms its convictions in literature's intrinsic powers by exploring the causes for our paradoxical belief in theater's potent but manifest illusions. Plays that ask their audience to
"awake your faith" or "believe then, if you please" ultimately enable us to "mind true things by what their mockeries be." Rather than faith in God or the supernatural, McCoy argues that faith in Shakespeare is sustained and explained only by the complex, subtle, and entirely human power of poetic eloquence and dramatic performance.
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Number of pages: 214
Weight: 268 g
Dimensions: 217 x 141 x 13 mm
Richard McCoy has written an eloquent brief for theatrical faith as the central experience in Shakespeare's theatrical art. This faith is neither divine nor fraudulent; it eschews both metaphysics and cynicism. Instead it embraces what Coleridge famously called a 'willing suspension of disbelief,' a suspension McCoy celebrates as precious human achievement. * Stephen Greenblatt, author of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern *
In this humane and accessible book, Richard McCoy leaves behind unanswerable debates about Shakespeare's own theology to concentrate instead on the plays' strong insistence on the restorative powers of theatrical illusion. With masterful readings of several plays, McCoy eloquently reminds us why we care about Shakespeare. * Gail Kern Paster, Director Emerita, the Folger Shakespeare Library *
Richard C. McCoy's new book on faith in Shakespeare proposes neither the darkness of social criticism nor sectarian religious claims. For McCoy, the mutually dependent labors of Shakespeare's extraordinary writing and the active poetic faith of auditors and readers yields an enduring harvest of healing wonder at not only the huge costs but also the immense worth of 'human love amidst all its painful flaws.' * Frank Whigham, author of Seizures of the Will in Early Modern English Drama *
Richard McCoy wrestles with one of the great mysteries of Shakespeare's art: how do the plays manage to compel belief, even in a skeptical age like our own? The result is a profound and illuminating study, one that will prove invaluable to playgoers, actors, and readers eager to understand how the plays work their magic. * James Shapiro, author of 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare *
Recommended. * Choice *
Faith in Shakespeare can be defined as the true categorization of faith in Shakespeare's plays, which begins with acknowledging them as illusions and mockeries at first; then follows the understanding of these illusions as based on the human mind, which makes them not sacraments but humane reflections of human perception. McCoy discusses faith in Shakespeare in a compelling style and brilliantly awakens our faith. * Gul Kurtulus, Sixteenth Century Journal *