In recognition of the birthday of William Shakespeare, Andy Rau, Senior manager of content for Bible Gateway, posted a blog entry “Shakespeare and the Word,” noting the celebrated bard’s use of the Geneva Bible throughout his literary works. Rau comments:
The most frequently repeated figure on the books of the Bible to which Shakespeare refers is 42 books—eighteen from each of the Testaments and the remaining from the Apocrypha. Shakespeare’s writing contains more references to the Bible than the plays of any other Elizabethan playwright. A conservative tally of the total number of biblical references is 1200, a figure that I think could be doubled.
The blog post closes with this exhortation: “It’s worth your time to take a second look at your favorite Shakespeare play with an eye for subtle references to people, places, and events in Scripture.”
The closing comments brought to mind a most remarkable encounter with Shakespeare that occurred while I was in graduate school. I refer to this experience in an Examiner.com article published in connection Law Day 2012.
Here is an excerpt from that article:
When I was working on my Ph.D. in English at Indiana University in Bloomington, I enrolled in a course on Shakespeare taught by the late Professor Roy Battenhouse, recognized scholar and author of Shakespeare and the Christian Tradition. The course was especially memorable in that the half dozen or so students met at Professor Battenhouse’s home which was in walking distance from the campus, and his wife served us tea and other homemade delicacies. I was first exposed to The Merchant of Venice during that class, and I completed a paper discussing Shylock’s demand for justice and the resultant resolution of the bond. The paper was later published as an article in The College Language Association Journal XXXV No. 3. March 1992: 353-66, which is now reprinted and attached as a pdf.
In celebration of Shakespeare’s birth, listen to the “The Quality of Mercy” speech from a production by the British Broadcasting Corporation, as Portia argues the case for mercy in light of justice.