chapter  6
Shakespeare and the Bible: Against Textual Materialism: Edward Pechter
ByEDWARD PECHTER
Pages 17

Asked “to uncover the cultural work performed by the links between Shakespeare and the English Bible,” we might start with the basis for the linkage itself. Interpretive traditions may “have yoked the Biblical and Shakespearean corpora together as mutually reinforcing sources of cultural authority,” but Shakespeare does not emerge as a canonical scripture until 1623, acquiring fully canonical status only with the work of Edmund Malone and the Romantic critics roughly a millennium and a half after the Bible had achieved its own authority. Such a belated succession, while it may result in mutual reinforcement, is also likely to produce the jarring dissonances felt to exist between “contesting scriptures.”2 Does Shakespeare succeed the Bible as the night the day, or are the two yoked together by violence? From one angle, Shakespeare seems to reinforce an established authority, but the relation may also be construed as a “drastic swerve from the sacred to the secular,” in which Shakespeare displaces the Bible from its privileged position.