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date: 30 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The religious turmoil of the English Reformation left behind a rich mixture of beliefs and practices, ranging from traditional Roman Catholic to radical Protestant. A defining feature of early modern life, this vibrant and conflicted religious culture was on full display in Shakespeare’s London and bears a close relationship to many aspects of his comedies. This chapter explores the significance for Shakespeare’s comedies of five key aspects of early modern religion: doctrine, festivity, social reformation, the treatment of outsiders, and conversion. It argues that the plays sometimes reflect, sometimes question, and sometimes participate in the religious ferment of their time, and it illustrates the developments in literary-critical method that have increasingly thrown light upon Shakespeare’s engagement with contemporary religious conversations and controversies, including those surrounding the powers and purposes of mirth.

Keywords: religion, doctrine, festivity, ritual, reformation, outsiders, conversion, grace

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