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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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Past Reflections on Shakespeare and Morality

Past Reflections on Shakespeare and Morality

(p.181) Chapter 5 Past Reflections on Shakespeare and Morality
Shakespeare's Moral Compass

Neema Parvini

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter surveys and evaluates the major studies on Shakespeare and morality from 1775 to 1964. In so doing, it demonstrates that there are three main traditions of thinking about Shakespeare and morality: the Protestant tradition foregrounding divine providence (Elizabeth Griffith, Charles Knight, Bishop Charles Wordsworth, Richard G. Moulton, and Harold Ford), the Catholic tradition foregrounding moral conscience (Richard Simpson, Henry Sebastian Bowden, Arthur Temple Cadoux, Alfred Harbage, and John Vyvyan) and the secular-humanist tradition foregrounding human nature (William Hazlitt, Frank Chapman Sharp, George H. Morrison, and Roland Mushat Frye). It finds a number of reoccurring conclusions in the available criticism: that Shakespeare stresses the importance of viable alternatives in ethical choices; that he emphasises the psychological interiority of morality; and that he has a positive view of humanity. Critics also found that it is not possible to pin Shakespeare down to any Christian doctrine, and it is not clear whether or not the worlds of his plays allow for redemption, and his sinners seldom seek it.

Keywords:   Shakespeare, Shakespeare Criticism, Moral Philosophy, Elizabeth Griffith, William Hazlitt, Arthur Temple Cadoux, Alfred Harbage, John Vyvyan, Roland Mushat Frye, Richard G. Moulton

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