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  • Print publication year: 2018
  • Online publication date: April 2018

Introduction - Popular Hermeneutics in Shakespeare’s London


Shakespeare’s biblical allusions show that the playwright drew mainly from two dominant Bibles: the Geneva Bible, created by Protestant exiles during the reign of Queen Mary, and the Bishops’ Bible, fashioned by Elizabethan bishops to be the official pulpit Bible. The manner of allusion to these different bibles suggests that some references derive from aural memory, from sermons and liturgical settings. Similarly, Shakespeare’s audiences would have learned to interpret the Bible aurally in church as well as from annotated bibles, printed sermons, commentaries, and the vast quantity of biblically oriented literature produced in Reformation England. The question of how to interpret the Bible was charged with profound social and political implications. This introduction investigates how Shakespeare’s audiences would have been attentive not just to the rich body of biblical allusion in Shakespearean drama, but also to the methods of interpretation – what we term “popular hermeneutics” – enacted on the Shakespearean stage.

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