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Thread: Biblical References In Shakespeare

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2013

    Biblical References In Shakespeare

    In a very intense scene in HAMLET, the prince says to his uncle: "Farewell, dear mother," and explains: "Father and mother is man and wife; man and wife is one flesh; and so my mother"( Some editors have noted that the passage is an allusion to GENESIS 2.24. Professor Halio, an editor, noted that other allusions are not so easy: "THE MERCHANT OF VENICE is studded with both classical and biblical allusions, though how many were deliberately intended or unconsciously woven into the fabric of the dialogue is uncertain." As we shall see, Hamlet's allusion can help identify others. In the first scene of ROMEO AND JULIET, Samson says to Gregory: "Gregory, on my word, we'll not carry coals"(1.1.1).

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    oops. As Samson and Gregory are about to encounter other characters, Gregory says: "'Tis well thou art not fish; if thou hadst, thou hadst been poor john"(ROM1.1.28-9). Taken together, the lines might be an allusion to the first line of the GOSPEL OF JOHN. Images presented by the lovers: "So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows"(1.5.47), "Whiter than new snow on a raven's back"(3.2.19), and "Dove-feathered raven"(3.2.76), correspond to the black and white picture representing Chinese dualistic philosophy. The structure of the images suggests that Samson's "'Tis all one"(ROM1.1.20) is at once an allusion to GENESIS 1.27 and DEUTERONOMY 6.4. In HAMLET, we find images corresponding to the first and third images in ROMEO: "'Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother, / Nor customary suits of solemn black"(1.2.77-8), and "There is a willow grows askant the brook / That shows his hoary leaves in the glassy stream. / There with fantastic garlands did she make"(4.7.164-6). When searching for an image matching the "new snow" in ROMEO, we find instead Hamlet's allusion to GENESIS. In HAMLET, the ghost tells us that: "It's given out that, sleeping in my orchard, / A serpent stung me...........But know, thou noble youth, / The serpent that did sting thy father's life / Now wears his crown"(1.5.34-9). When Juliet learns that Rome has killed her cousin, she exclaims: "O serpent heart hid with a flowering face!"(ROM3.2.73). The Friar tells Romeo: "Thy tears are womanish, thy wild acts denote / The unreasonable fury of a beast"(ROM3.3.109-10). Hamlet says: "Why, what an [beast] am I: This is most brave, / That I..........Must like a whore unpack my heart with words"(2.2517-20). In Act 1, scene 2 of ROMEO, Romeo tells his cousin: "One fairer than my love! The all-seeing sun / Ne'er saw her match since first the world begun." Romeo stands alone in the Capulet's orchard and says: "He jests at scars that never felt a wound"(2.2.1). It is reasonable to suggest that the author has in mind the creation of the woman in GENESIS. Juliet is on the balcony above. Women are also absent from the " "orchard" in HAMLET, though also, it seems, nearby. Therefore, Shakespeare presents both a literal and a figurative or symbolic interpretation of GENESIS, chapters 2 and 3. The woman represents what Dr. Jung called "anima" or the contrasexual quality of a man. The serpent represents what The Friar called "rude will"(ROM2.3.24).

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