Shakespeare and the Bible seem unable to escape each other. Since not long after the canonization of Shakespeare, countless generalizations about the tradition of so-called great books have yoked the Biblical and Shakespearean corpora together as mutually reinforcing sources of cultural authority. George Bernard Shaw, for example, voices a literary commonplace: “That I can write as I do is due to my having been as a child steeped in the Bible, The Pilgrim’s Progress, and Cassell’s Illustrated Shakespeare”; similarly, a favorite quotation among Victorian bardolators, attributed to John Sharp (1645-1714), casts the same idea in blunter political terms: “The Bible and Shakspeare have made me Archbishop of York.”1 The linkage is a familiar trope, especially for Shakespeare scholars, who have benefi ted from Shakespeare’s quasi-divine canonical status while sometimes also resisting the purposes to which that authority has been put. John Drakakis describes the ideological stakes: The “acknowledgement of Shakespeare as universal, transcendent, and eternal confers upon a quintessentially English writer-whose ‘works’ are regarded as a miraculous contingency of his being and detached supreme consciousness-a divine status. Shakespeare, removed thus from human history, becomes for us the ‘Absolute Subject’ whose all-embracing ‘Word’ takes its place alongside the Bible as our guarantee of civilisation and humanity.”

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Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.4324/9780203807538-6
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DeCook, T, & Galey, A. (Alan). (2011). Introduction: Scriptural negotiations and textual afterlives. Shakespeare, the Bible, and the Form of the Book: Contested Scriptures, 1–24. doi:10.4324/9780203807538-6