Shakespeare’s Oaths

In her TLS review of John Kerrigan’s Shakespeare’s Binding Language, Emma Smith calls attention to the liturgical and sacramental dimensions of Shakespearean oaths, contracts, and vows:

“Binding in Measure emerges as deeply theological and sacramental (‘grounded in the Roman military oath of sacramentum,’ as Kerrigan tells us in one of his frequent adversions to Latin etymology). . . . Kerrigan’s analysis of the associative patterns between slander, repentance, absolution and temporal justice reminds us of the liturgy of salvation by which the fetters of sin are loosed. The ‘muffled’ Claudio, returned from the dead, is Lazarus from the medieval cycle plays: a figure of sins remitted.”

Binding is of the essence of religio, and it is pervasive in Shakespeare’s work: “binding language covers oaths, vows and promises, this book engages with legal and ethical texts from the classical and Judaeo-Christian traditions. More than once, Kerrigan reminds us of the origins of religion in religio, ‘to bind.’ It includes the bonds of family and the verbal means by which contracts from revenge to marriage are performed. Oaths can be solemn, like the Oath of Allegiance imposed on Catholics after the Gunpowder Plot, or trivially blasphemous, like ‘tush,’ ‘zounds’ and other imprecations that have apparently been cut from the First Folio text of Othello in accordance with the Act to Restrain Abuses of Players. Everything, from friends to tribes, from bowels to marriage, from spells to faith, is subject to binding: oaths and vows produce action and plot, and their ambiguities, uncertainties and interactions produce character. Almost every Shakespeare play, and a coda on the Sonnets, speaks to this pervasive theme.”

"John 1:14-1614 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld ..."

Canon and Church
"something like that, besides why would you want to teach any thing, but good things, ..."

Canon and Church
"You are your own judge, God is the only one who can dish out judgement, ..."

Canon and Church
"You do not even know what The Word is. John describes The Word as pre-existing ..."

Canon and Church

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!