Much Ado About Religion

Much Ado About ReligionThe ABC’s Soul Search has produced a program Much Ado About Religion. Shakespeare’s world was marked by social change, spiritual tumult and cosmic disorientation. We explore the religious landscape of Elizabethan-era England, and how the Bard grappled with emerging ideas about self, the supernatural, and humanity’s place in the cosmos.

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” – Hamlet, Act I, Scene 5

William Shakespeare’s world was marked by social change, spiritual tumult, and cosmic disorientation.

Elizabeth I was on the throne, defining and defending England’s Protestant reformation.

Copernicus had just died, but his discovery that the earth revolved around the sun had his contemporaries in a spin.

European nations were extending their empires into the unfamiliar Americas.

People were grappling with new ideas about the self and what it means to be human, as well as emerging scientific understandings of humanity’s place in the cosmos.

Two professors of English literature take us on a journey through the religious landscape of 16th Century England and how it influenced Shakespeare’s life and work.


Kristen Poole
Kristen Poole is the Blue and Gold Distinguished Professor of English Renaissance Literature at the University of Delaware, specialising in Shakespeare and religious history. Image: Supplied

Professor Kristen Poole from the University of Delaware is the author of The Bible on the Shakespearean Stage: Cultures of Interpretation in Reformation England and Supernatural Environments in Shakespeare’s England: Spaces of Demonism, Divinity, and Drama.

“I think it’s really disorienting for people, if your basic understanding the cosmos has become undone,” Professor Poole says. “Shakespeare is sort of cutting through a lot of the noise and the static, and landing on a different kind of truth.”

Professor Helen Smith is one of the editors of The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in Early Modern England, c. 1530-1700.

She says: “This is the period when, as well as being so richly patterned by the Bible and by religion and by those structures, people are thinking in more and more secular terms.”

Together, the professors tackle the ultimate question: how secular – or perhaps, how enchanted – was Shakespeare?
Duration: 54min 7sec Listen to this program, or download the mp3 file and listen later.

More Information

Broadcast: Sun 21 Nov 2021, 6:05pm
Presenter: Meredith Lake
Producer: Karen Tong
Sound engineer: Isabella Tropiano

Further Information
John Bell’s ABC Boyer Lectures – Shakespeare: Soul of the Age


Much Ado About Religion
Much Ado About Religion – Shakespeare’s grappling with the self, the supernatural, and humanity’s place in the cosmos.


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