Shakespeare and Abraham
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In Shakespeare and Abraham, Ken Jackson illuminates William Shakespeare’s dramatic fascination with the story of Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son Isaac in Genesis 22. Themes of child killing fill Shakespeare’s early plays: Genesis 22 informed Clifford’s attack on young Rutland in 3 Henry 6, Hubert’s providentially thwarted murder of Arthur in King John, and Aaron the Moor’s surprising decision to spare his son amidst the filial slaughters of Titus Andronicus, among others.

However, the playwright’s full engagement with the biblical narrative does not manifest itself exclusively in scenes involving the sacrifice of children or in verbal borrowings from the famously sparse story of Abraham. Jackson argues that the most important influence of Genesis 22 and its interpretive tradition is to be found in the conceptual framework that Shakespeare develops to explore relationships among ideas of religion, sovereignty, law, and justice. Jackson probes the Shakespearean texts from the vantage of modern theology and critical theory, while also orienting them toward the traditions concerning Abraham in Jewish, Pauline, patristic, medieval, and Reformation sources and early English drama. Consequently, the playwright’s “Abrahamic explorations” become strikingly apparent in unexpected places such as the “trial” of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and the bifurcated structure of Timon of Athens. By situating Shakespeare in a complex genealogy that extends from ancient religion to postmodern philosophy, Jackson inserts Shakespeare into the larger contemporary conversation about religion in the modern world.



Publié par
Date de parution 15 mars 2015
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780268083557
Langue English

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University of Notre Dame Press
Notre Dame, Indiana
Copyright © 2015 by the University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, Indiana 46556
All Rights Reserved
E-ISBN 978-0-268-08355-7 Manufactured in the United States of America --> Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data --> Jackson, Kenneth S., 1965– --> Shakespeare and Abraham / Ken Jackson. --> pages cm --> Includes bibliographical references and index. --> ISBN 978-0-268-03271-5 (paperback) — ISBN 0-268-03271-8 (paper) --> 1. Shakespeare, William, 1564–1616—Religion. 2. Abraham (Biblical patriarch)—In literature. 3. Bible. Genesis, III, 22–24—Influence. 4. Fathers and sons in literature. I. Title. --> PR3012.J33 2015 --> 822.3’3—dc23 --> 2014047519 --> ∞ The paper in this book meets the guidelines for permanence and durability of the Committee on Production Guidelines for Book Longevity of the Council on Library Resources. -->
This e-Book was converted from the original source file by a third-party vendor. Readers who notice any formatting, textual, or readability issues are encouraged to contact the publisher at
For Pauline, Sophie, and Henry
Introduction: Abraham and the Shakespearean Stage
CHAPTER 1. The Wakefield Cycle Play and the Interpretive Tradition
CHAPTER 2. Weak Sovereignty and Genesis 22 in 3 Henry VI and King John
CHAPTER 3. Richard II : Sovereign Violence, and Good Old Abraham
CHAPTER 4. Titus Andronicus : Why Aaron Saves His Son—and Titus Does Not
CHAPTER 5. The Merchant of Venice : Shylock, the Knight of Faith?
CHAPTER 6. Timon of Athens : One Wish, and the Possibility of the Impossible
Notes Index -->
This study began around 1996, when Suzanne Gossett told me—in her inimitable tone and manner—“Well, if you are going to write about Timon of Athens you will need to deal with Coppélia Kahn!” I did, reading and rereading a single article in Shakespeare Quarterly with this admonition ringing in my mind’s ear. I am grateful to have the clear guidance of such serious scholars who, through their own work and willingness to teach, cut paths to further inquiry. As I progressed, struggling with my own thoughts, I had the great luxury of almost always being able to turn to the work of Julia Reinhard Lupton to understand my own abstract musings. In academia, having someone else always arrive there first really isn’t that bad as long as it is someone like Julia.
Timon of Athens eventually took me home, to Detroit, where we never stop talking about the “Renaissance,” and where Arthur F. Marotti has kept the very idea of the university alive for me at a time when the very term seems threatened. To paraphrase a dean at Professor Marotti’s retirement, many thought that without his gravitas the whole place might levitate off the ground and disappear. It hasn’t, perhaps because he has been able to maintain his faculty office. Wayne State University has been generous in its support even though I could never work “STEM” in to the title of this book. Richard Grusin, Ellen Barton, and Michael Scrivener provided much needed direction and modelling, all of a different sort. Robert Aguirre reminded me I am never quite alone. And Jaime Goodrich and Simone Chess always prompted me to keep moving, lest I recede in to the past. “My” former graduate students—Laura Estill, Renuka Gusain, and Michael Martin—provided more sheer joy, I am sure, than I ever provided my teachers. Having pushed like mad to get them out the door in a timely fashion, I now miss their company so much I got a Facebook page. Dean Ambika Mathur, late in the process, gave much needed support and confirmation that university sciences weren’t quite ready to jettison the humanities. Kay Stone and Cindy Sokol make my regular work day manageable and, at times, fun.
Outside WSU, I hope to see Jim Knapp, Gary Kuchar, and Ewan Fernie soon to tell them I owe them.
Some material here appeared in article form, and I want to acknowledge the following journals and publishers and thank them for their permission to reprint here. Parts of my final chapter appeared as “‘One Wish’ or the Possibility of the Impossible: God, the Gift, and Derrida in Timon of Athens ,” Shakespeare Quarterly , 52.1 (Spring 2001): 34–66; my discussion of King John emerges from “Is It God or the Sovereign Exception? Giorgio Agamben and Shakespeare’s King John ,” Religion and Literature 38.3 (Autumn 2006): 85–99; I first discussed Aaron the Moor in “‘Here Aaron Is’: Abraham and the Abrahamic in Titus Andronicus ,” 1453–1699, in Cultural Encounters Between East and West , ed. Matthew Dimmock and Matthew Birchwood (London: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2005), 145–67; my chapter on The Merchant of Venice draws on “Shylock, the Knight of Faith?” The Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory 8.3, (Fall 2007), 67–82; theoretical formulations were worked out in “The Turn to Religion in Early Modern Studies,” co-authored with Arthur F. Marotti, Criticism 46.1 (Winter 2004): 167–90, and “The Great Temptation of Religion: Why Badiou Has Been So Important to Žižek,” The International Journal of Žižek Studies 1.2 (2007): 1–28.
At home, well, I have come to learn that there is nothing I won’t sacrifice for my family, and for me that brings heaven and earth closer together.
Shakespeare probably read Genesis 22 in the Geneva Bible (1560). I present the text of verses 1–19 here with modernized spelling and typography.

And after these things God did prove Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham. Who answered Here am I.
And he said, Take now thine only son Isaac whom thou lovest, and get thee unto the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains, which I will show thee.
Then Abraham rose up early in the morning and saddled his ass, and took two of his servants with him, and Isaac his son, and clove wood for the burnt offering and rose up and went to the place, which God had told him.
Then the third day Abraham lift[ed] up his eyes, and saw the place a far off.
And said unto his servants, Abide you here with the ass: for I and the child will go yonder and worship, and come again unto you.
Then Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son, and he took the fire in his hand, and the knife: and they went both together.
Then spoke Isaac unto Abraham his father, and said, My father. And he answered, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood, but where is lamb for the burnt offering?
Then Abraham answered, My son, God will provide him a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both together.
When they came to the place which God had showed him, Abraham built an altar there, and coached the wood, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.
And Abraham stretching forth his hand, took the knife to kill his son.
But the Angel of the Lord called unto him from heaven, saying Abraham, Abraham. And he answered, Here am I.
Then he said, Lay not thine hand upon the child, neither do anything unto him: for now I know that thou fear God, seeing for my sake thou has not spared thine only son.
And Abraham lifting up his eyes, looked and behold, there was a ram behind him caught by the horns in a bush. Then Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.
And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah: as it is said this day, In the mount will the Lord be seen.
And the Angel of the Lord cried unto Abraham from heaven a second time.
And said, By my self have I sworn (faith the Lord) because thou has done this thing, and have not spared thine only son,
Therefore I will surely bless thee, and will greatly multiply thy seed, as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore, and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies.
And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou has obeyed my voice.
Then turned Abraham again unto his servants, and they rose up, and went together to Beersheba: and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.
Abraham and the Shakespearean Stage
This study seeks to illuminate Shakespeare’s dramatic fascination with Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son Isaac in Genesis 22. Scenes of child killing or near child killing fill Shakespeare’s early plays, but, remarkably, no one has yet considered this in full. Genesis 22, I will show, informed Clifford’s attack on young Rutland in 3 Henry VI and Henry’s political sacrifice of his son Edward, which opens the play; Hubert’s providentially thwarted murder of Arthur in King John ; Aaron the Moor’s surprising decision to spare his son amid the filial slaughters of Titus Andronicus ; and old York’s darkly comic insistence that King Henry execute York’s (adult) son, Aumerle, in Richard II . 1
The playwright’s full engagement with the biblical narrative, however, does not manifest itself exclusively in scenes involving the sacrifice of children or in verbal borrowings from the famously sparse narrative. This is not a traditional study of literary borrowing or influence that primarily seeks to link Genesis 22 and Shakespeare via philological evidence—although I certainly don’t ignore the connections that are there. I want to stress at the outset that the real influence of Genesis 22 and its interpretive tradition is seen in the critical, conceptual framework Shakespeare develops to think through, dramatically speaking, the relationships between religion, sovereignty, law, and justice. In short, Shakespeare uses Genesis 22 to understand the world—and

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