The Trial of Man

Christianity and Judgment in the World of Shakespeare

By Craig A. Bernthal

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The Trial of Man

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Shakespeare often used trials or scenes in which his characters are subjected to judgment—especially divine judgment—to bear the dramatic burden of his plays. In The Trial of Man: Christianity and Judgment in the World of Shakespeare, Craig Bernthal, a lawyer and Shakespeare scholar, shows how understanding the Elizabethan religious and legal context in which Shakespeare lived illuminates many of Shakespeare's works, including The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, Measure for Measure, The Winter's Tale, The Tempest, Henry VIII, and Henry VI, Part II.

"Judgment," writes Bernthal, "is the archetypal situation for Shakespeare, the one event that every human being will have to face, on one or both sides of the grave." Bernthal's study portrays a Shakespeare heavily indebted in his notions of judgment—and in the comic and dramatic uses to which he puts—to the doctrines of Christian theology, both Catholic and Protestant. Bernthal also shows how the legal culture and trials of Shakespeare's time, including the famous trial of Sir Walter Raleigh, influenced Shakespeare's approach to the difficulties surrounding human judgment—how to assess the truthfulness of testimony, determine the appropriate degree of punishment, and evaluate the justice of proposed remedies. Above all, Bernthal carefully attends to the ways in which Shakespeare probed the tension between justice and mercy in all its complexity.

Additional Information

Format Cloth
Pages 342
Publisher ISI Books
What They're Saying...

"Written for the lay reader, provides a captivating synthesis of literary, historical, and legal scholarship."

"He relates in rich detail how plays both major and minor relate to two Elizabethan contexts: Christian theology and English legal tradition."
Sunday Times

"Bernthal's analyses, often accompanied with straightforward readings of the plays' narratives, are clear and informative. His analysis of The Tempest rescues that poor hijacked play from the hands of its anti-imperialist critics and opens up its manifold mysteries with genuine sensitivity and exquisite sense."
Faith & Reason

ISBN 1932236031
ISBN13 9781932236033
Eligible for Readers Club Discount Yes

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