Supernatural Environments in Shakespeare's England

Supernatural Environments in Shakespeare's England : Spaces of Demonism, Divinity, and Drama

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Bringing together recent scholarship on religion and the spatial imagination, Kristen Poole examines how changing religious beliefs and transforming conceptions of space were mutually informative in the decades around 1600. Supernatural Environments in Shakespeare's England explores a series of cultural spaces that focused attention on interactions between the human and the demonic or divine: the deathbed, purgatory, demonic contracts and their spatial surround, Reformation cosmologies and a landscape newly subject to cartographic surveying. It examines the seemingly incongruous coexistence of traditional religious beliefs and new mathematical, geometrical ways of perceiving the environment. Arguing that the late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century stage dramatized the phenomenological tension that resulted from this uneasy confluence, this groundbreaking study considers the complex nature of supernatural environments in Marlowe's Doctor Faustus and Shakespeare's Othello, Hamlet, Macbeth and The Tempest.
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Product details

  • Electronic book text | 320 pages
  • Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 15 b/w illus.
  • 9781139089388

Table of contents

Prologue: setting - and unsettling - the stage; Introduction: the space of the supernatural; 1. The devil's in the archive: Ovidian physics and Doctor Faustus; 2. Scene at the deathbed: Ars Moriendi, Othello, and envisioning the supernatural; 3. When hell freezes over: the fabulous Mount Hecla and Hamlet's infernal geography; 4. Metamorphic cosmologies: the world according to Calvin, Hooker, and Macbeth; 5. Divine geometry in a geodetic age: surveying, God, and The Tempest; Epilogue: re-enchanting geography.
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Review quote

"Poole navigates herself deftly though the minefield of ambiguities of literal and metaphorical language of the early modern supernatural....Supernatural Environments certainly succeeds in bringing to attention the important role of cartographic and mathematical developments in changing concepts of supernatural spaces and how these conflicting ideas are addressed in the theater. While much of the book's introductory material on the need to reevaluate "the decline of magic" sounds all too familiar, the arguments that Poole follows with are significant as the implications of Clark's monumental study have yet to be fully addressed in a theatrical context. Poole writes engagingly and the argument is fascinating. Supernatural Environments is an ambitious project and Poole quite rightly reveals the possibility of more research in the area. It will be interesting to see what follows."
--Marlowe Society of America Newsletter "This is an important, clever, and well-written book that makes a striking contribution to early modern studies, and its epilogue offers a vision of a ''reenchanted geography'' (219) that is richly suggestive and should inspire new thinking about the period."
--Renaissance Society of America
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About Kristen Poole

Kristen Poole is Associate Professor in the English Department at the University of Delaware. She specializes in the religious culture and literature of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. She is the author of Radical Religion from Shakespeare to Milton: Figures of Nonconformity in Early Modern England (Cambridge University Press, 2000) and has published articles in numerous scholarly journals.
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