Date of Award

10-10-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Ronald G. Shafer, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

James M. Cahalan, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Christopher Kuipers, Ph.D.

Abstract

A close examination of the garden and nature settings in ten of Shakespeare‘s plays reveals the spiritual effects of the Henrician Reformation on English men and women. Through a historical lens and inferred Elizabethan theological assumptions, such examination tracks the development of an individual and personal relationship with the God of Christianity. Although the obvious relationship of Shakespeare‘s garden settings to the Garden of Eden has been previously examined, to this date connections to the development of spiritual individuality engendered by the Henrician Reformation remain uncharted territory. This research project explores in chronological order, according to Bevington‘s widely accepted explanation of first performances, specific nature scenes in Titus Andronicus, Romeo and Juliet, Richard II, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Othello, King Lear, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest. A historical analysis of each chosen scene portrays the effects on people of four reversals in state religion in about thirty-seven years. In addition, Martin Luther‘s Soli—Scriptura, Gratia, and Fida—venture a theological foundation for reading Shakespeare‘s nature scenes as enactments of the rise of "atemporal religion" - my coinage for the change in religion from external practice to internal. This new approach to religion defines the spiritual bond that allows neither the limits of man-made structures nor of a preacher‘s or priest‘s time schedules to hinder the spiritual bond of the Creator-created triad—a balanced relationship among the Creator, nature, and people. Atemporal religion, then, reveals the new Garden of Eden—a safe location the Creator produces within the soul of every individual and which the selected Shakespearian nature scenes reveal. Advancing chronologically, each chosen garden or nature scene of these particular plays builds on the previous play‘s portrayal of a characteristic of a personal and individual relationship with the Creator. Characters‘ imitations of nature‘s traits or a depiction of them in relation to nature‘s non-human entities plot the course of the development and maturation of individual spiritual responsibility. The relationship among nature, people, and God in these scenes reveals the impact of the Henrician Reformation as the beginnings of the individual pursuit of a personal relationship with the Creator.

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