chapter  1
Introduction: Scriptural Negotiations and Textual Afterlives: Travis Decook and Alan Galey
Pages 24

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.”2