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Shakespeare's Moral Compass$
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Neema Parvini

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474432870

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474432870.001.0001

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The Reformation, Capitalism and Ethics in England during the 1590s and early 1600s

The Reformation, Capitalism and Ethics in England during the 1590s and early 1600s

Chapter:
(p.139) Chapter 4 The Reformation, Capitalism and Ethics in England during the 1590s and early 1600s
Source:
Shakespeare's Moral Compass
Author(s):

Neema Parvini

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474432870.003.0004

This chapter complicates the outline of moral philosophy in Shakespeare’s period provided by the previous chapter by considering the impact of the Protestant Reformation and the challenge posed by John Calvin to the synthesised humanist moral systems that had been developing during the Renaissance. It also considers the impact of the rise of capitalism, which is broadly coincident with that of Protestantism. It considers the moral implications of Calvin’s three solas, as mediated in England by William Perkins’s A Golden Chain (1591) and Thomas Becon’s The Governance of Vertue (1556), while noting Shakespeare’s possible hostility to puritanism. In the second half, it reconsiders Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905) and the Calvinist notion of “the calling”, while tracing the changing attitude towards commerce in the work of Giovanni Botero, John Wheeler, and Walter Raleigh. It argues that Calvin’s thought lacks the individualist and entrepreneurial enterprise found in Machiavelli, and that any attempt to locate “the spirit of capitalism” must be found in the “unresolved tension” between Machiavelli and Calvin.

Keywords:   Shakespeare, Moral Philosophy, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, Calvinism, Machiavelli, Reformation, Giovanni Botero, Walter Raleigh, Thomas Becon

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