Sunday, June 5, 2011

Shakespeare's Imagery - Spurgeon 4 of 10

Dr. Spurgeon’s flawed research on Shakespeare and Bacon images– cont. (4)

(4) Then, Dr. Spurgeon states that “Bacon's mind is steeped in Biblical story and phrase in a way in which there is no evidence in Shakespeare, whose comparisons and references are few and familiar”. In stating that Shakespeare's comparisons and references to the Bible are few and familiar, Dr. Spurgeon has not only dispensed with the light of all the authorities, but her own light as well. We should hardly have thought it possible that even a cursory reader of the Bible and of the Shakespearean plays could have failed to have been struck by Shakespeare's exceptional knowledge and the use of the Old and New Testaments. We know that Dr. Spurgeon has analysed Shakespeare and would not dare to suggest that she has neglected the Bible as she has neglected so much of Bacon's works, but what are we to think in view of the following facts?

Besides references to Cain twenty-five times, to Jephthah seven times, to Samson nine times, to David six times, to Job twenty-five times, in two plays, 2 Henry Vl and Henry VIII, the number of allusions to the Psalms runs into double figures, all of which may be familiar but are certainly not few. Shakespeare definitely makes identifiable quotations from, or allusions to, at least forty-two books of the Bible, eighteen each from the Old and New Testaments and six from the Apocrypha. Shakespeare's biblical images and references are not to be analysed only by reference to those in which proper names are actually mentioned. He often used an incident recorded in the Bible without mentioning proper names at all. Examples furnished by Mr. Richmond Noble (Shakespeare's Biblical Knowledge, p.21) are the allusions in King John to the sun standing still-- Joshua is not mentioned. In Twelfth Night and Cymbeline those who cared to do so could identify the allusion to setting the feet on the necks of five kings. Again, without mentioning her name, the story of Jael and Sisera is referred to in The Tempest. Five times reference is made to the reply by the Shunamite woman to Elisha's enquiry as to her dead child's health and Richard II contrasts the reception by Christ of the children with his attitude to the rich young man who sought the Way of Salvation.

Secondly, we would refer Dr. Spurgeon to the following authorities, all unimpeachably orthodox in regard to the authorship controversy, that Shakespeare's knowledge of the Bible was altogether exceptional and, as the late Mr. E. E. Fripp wrote, "Probably Francis Bacon alone among contemporary laymen knew his Bible as well. Not the most subtle allusion in Shakespeare to Scripture would be lost on Bacon.” (Shakespeare, Man and Artist, Vol. I, p. 102).

Dr. Wordsworth, Bishop of St. Andrews; Dr, Thomas Carter; Dr. Christian Ginsburg, one of the most learned Biblical scholars of the 19th century and one of the Revisers of the Old Testament; Canon Todd, among the greatest Biblical authorities in the Irish Church, and Mr. Anders, in Shakespeare's Books mentioned the Bible as one of the books of which Shakespeare had especial knowledge.

It is not, of course, necessary to the purposes of our argument to demonstrate that Shakespeare's knowledge of the Bible was exceptional; we have, as we think we have done, only to show the utter absurdity of Dr. Spurgeon's statement that Shakespeare's comparisons and references to the Bible are few and familiar. If she still pleads they are familiar, let us remind her of "the base Judean” Othello, Act V, 2; St. Philip's daughters, I Henry Vl, 2; Shylock's reference to "the stock of Barabbas," and Antony's to "the horned herd". Doubtless these are familiar enough to her, but to how many except to those whose knowledge of the Bible and Shakespeare is as profound as her own are they familiar today? And to whom among laymen, except Francis Bacon (to him upon her own admission) would they have been familiar in Shakespeare's time?

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