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Shakespeare's Common Prayers: The Book of Common Prayer and the Elizabethan Age Hardcover – October 5, 2012

10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199838561 ISBN-10: 0199838569 Edition: 1st

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Shakespeare's Common Prayers: The Book of Common Prayer and the Elizabethan Age + The Book of Common Prayer: The Texts of 1549, 1559, and 1662 (Oxford World's Classics) + The "Book of Common Prayer": A Biography (Lives of Great Religious Books)
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"Groundbreaking, historically informed, elegantly written, and invaluable for anyone interested in a deeper understanding of Shakespeare and religion in Elizabethan England." --James Shapiro, author of 1599 and Contested Will


"This is a brilliant book....If you have any interest at all in Shakespeare....you're in for a dazzling, if sometimes demanding, intellectual adventure." --Michael Dirda, ashington Post Book World


"This is a work of deep, thorough scholarship. The book is extremely interesting and well-written. It's a model of a modern scholarly book." --Bardfilm


"It made for perfect candlelight reading after lower Manhattan lost power." --Lorin Stein, Paris Review


"This is a highly imaginative, accessibly written take on Shakespeare's use of a source of considerable significance." --Library Journal


"Recommended." --Choice


About the Author


Daniel Swift is a literary journalist and a professor of English at Skidmore College. He is the author of Bomber County: The Poetry of a Lost Pilot's War, which was long-listed for the Guardian First Book Award and the Samuel Johnson Prize. His writings have appeared in Financial Times, The Nation, New York Times Book Review, and Times Literary Supplement.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199838569
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199838561
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 1 x 5.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #740,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Dr. John Bunyan on October 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The two best writers of English I have read this year are (belatedly) John Muir with his lyrical descriptions of parts of the natural world that, through his vision, were to be incorporated in America's National Parks, and Daniel Swift in this particular book. As James Shapiro says, it is indeed "elegantly written", very appropriately I think for its subject, and original and fascinating in its thesis. I think any serious student of Shakespeare's works should read it, and indeed anyone with a scholarly interest in late 16th and early 17th century English history, theology, and liturgy, all of which Swift has explored and in various ways freshly illustrated.

In this 350th anniversary year of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, his work might well encourage such scholars to look again carefully at the BCP itself, especially in its 1549, 1559, 1662 editions. Here they could make good use, as Swift does, of the fine work published last year, also by Oxford, and edited by Brian Commings, "The Book of Common Prayer : The Texts of 1549,1559 and 1662".

Having said that, one should warn that this is really not a work for the ordinary "person in the pew".

Swift does not add much to the general debate as to Shakespeare's personal faith. He says that he does not argue for "an Anglican Shakespeare" (the terms "Anglican" and "Anglican Church" found at times in the book of course anachronistic), although I had not realised that in 1606 Susannah, Shakespeare's oldest daughter, and the godparents to his two younger children were charged with not having received Communion at Easter, and the discussion of this on pages 167 to 170 is illuminating.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Sylviastel VINE VOICE on November 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover
If you love William Shakespeare, you will love reading this book. The author Daniel Swift has researched heavily and analyzed Shakespeare's plays and their relationship with the biblical prayers during the Elizabethan and King James I age. The author is a scholar and professor of English literature at Skidmore College. Unless you are interested in the religious aspect of William Shakespeare's plays like Macbeth or Romeo and Juliet, you may not be able to enjoy the material.

This book is a typical literary criticism book on William Shakespeare in criticizing and analyzing an aspect of his works. In this case, the author chooses to research, examine and analyze the Bard's relationship to the common prayer of the time period. Since Shakespeare plays normally feature funerals and weddings, there is always an element of the religious clergy on hand to conduct the ceremony like the Friar in Romeo and Juliet and other works.

This book is aimed at the Shakespeare students, scholars, and theologians in better understanding the man's work. I do remember Macbeth clearly since I taught it in student teaching five years ago. I never thought of it in terms of the religious aspect of witches nor the historic aspect that pertains to King James I's reign and regards to religion in England during Shakespeare's time. I now believe he was trying to send a message to his audiences about King James I without being too obvious. Perhaps I found Macbeth to be far more complicated and developed than previously thought at the time.

Shakespeare isn't easy for the experts, scholars, or the great thespians who acted and performed his works on stage. Since Shakespeare was a truly a great writer of his time and still continues to influence today's theatre, there is no question as to why study him.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By VST on March 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I was so looking forward to this book and so sadly disappointed. The author has great style and wide ranging knowledge of the Shakespearean landscape, but his pairings with passages of the Book of Common Prayer often lack a basic understanding of the theology expressed. He points to Psalm 23 as the Biblical reference for B of C's "straying from thy ways like lost sheep," when a truer reference would be Isaiah 53 or the NT reference of a lost sheep in Matthew and Luke. There was no lost sheep in Psalm 23. At another point, he states that Cranmer intended "ambiguities" but gives no reference to how we would come to this same conclusion. This book had so much promise and with deeper research into some of the theological points and more thoughtful connections between the evidence and his wide ranging conclusions it could have been truly great instead of just a stylish read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As both a lover of Shakespeare's works and the Book of Common Prayer, I suppose I expected too much from this book. Although the comparisons were interesting and context was thoroughly explored, I failed to find compelling the arguments Swift brought forth that the Bard leaned heavily on the rubrics of the BCP for his dramas.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Great book about the history and influence of the Book of Common Prayer on Shakespearean drama. Strong readings of Macbeth and other works, with an emphasis on liturgical / performative as well as semantic / poetic effects. Themes include the marriage service, the funeral service, the Eucharist, and baptism. Surprisingly Swift sees Shakespeare losing interest in The Book of Common Prayer after Macbeth, despite the strong baptismal themes of the romances. This is a scholarly book, but written in an accessible style.
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