The Trial of Man: Christianity and Judgement in the World of Shakespeare

Craig A. Bernthal

Published by Intercollegiate Studies Inst
ISBN 10: 1932236031 / ISBN 13: 9781932236033
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Fine. Cloth, D-j. 2003. Originally published at $25.00. Bookseller Inventory #

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Synopsis: Examines how Shakespeare drew from the doctrines of Christian theology to create trial scenes that subjected his characters to judgment, illuminating his works in the context of the religious and legal atmosphere in which he wrote.

From Booklist: *Starred Review* Former trial lawyer Bernthal homes in on occasions of trial and judgment in plays spanning Shakespeare's career from Henry VI, Part 2 (1589) to Henry VIII (1613), and he places them within the Christian context of Shakespeare's England, which understood that justice is real and administered by a just God who endowed humans with morality and the reasoning faculty to do good. While Bernthal considers scenes of trials in particular, as when Shylock takes Antonio to judgment before the disguised Portia in The Merchant of Venice, he also demonstrates that the plays he analyzes portray larger workings of a greater justice. The turbulence of the Wars of the Roses setting of Henry VI, Part 2 bespeaks divine punishment of Henry's dynasty for having overthrown Richard II two generations earlier. Hamlet's slowness to action against his usurping uncle, Claudius, gains dimension that modern secular readers miss when one grasps that in Shakespeare's world, ghosts were thought to be far more likely demons than spirits of the dead, and were Hamlet to kill Claudius, he would most probably be eternally damned. The other plays that Bernthal illuminates so brightly that his book should be considered must reading for Shakespeareans are Measure for Measure, The Winter's Tale, The Tempest, and the play that seems "a refutation of the main argument of this book," King Lear. Ray Olson
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Title: The Trial of Man: Christianity and Judgement...
Publisher: Intercollegiate Studies Inst
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