Shakespeare and religio mentis

A Study of Christian Hermetism in Four Plays


Have you ever wondered why Cordelia has to die? Or how Alonso talks and walks about the isle while his body lies ‘full fathom five’ on the sea floor? Ever wondered why the monument to Shakespeare in the Church of the Holy Trinity in Stratford-upon-Avon names three pagans: Nestor, Socrates, and Virgil – king, philosopher, and poet? Or why Shakespeare is on Olympus, home of the Greek gods? This interdisciplinary study, the first to interpret the plays of Shakespeare in the light of the esoteric religious doctrines of the Corpus Hermeticum, holds answers to these and other puzzling questions.

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Jane Everingham Nelson, B.A. (Syd), M.Ed. (Flinders), M.A., Ph.D. (2019) (University of Adelaide). Her master’s thesis, What Doctrine Call You This? An Inquiry into Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus and Hermetic Thought 1583-1593, published online in 2012, paved the way for her research into religious Hermetism and the dangerous politico-religious climate in which Shakespeare wrote.
 List of Figures
 A Note on the Texts
 A Note on Hermetism and Hermeticism

 Love's Labour's Lost - King Lear - Othello - The Tempest
 1 Nostalgia for Catholic Tradition in Shakespeare's Audience
 2 Shakespeare's Religious Sympathies
 3 Hermes Trismegistus Enters the Platonic Academy in Quattrocento Florence
 4 Religious Hermetism in the Twentieth Century
 5 Hermes finds a New Home in the Academy in the Twenty-first Century
 6 Towards a Definition of Western Esotericism
 7 More about Religious Hermetism
 8 Before the Recovery of Pymander - Hermes Trismegistus in Medieval Times
 9 The Reception and Transmission of the Hermetic Texts in Fifteenth Century Italy, in Sixteenth Century France and in England - Hermes Trismegistus in the Renaissance

  PART 1

 Introduction to Part 1

1 How Hermes Trismegistus became Hermes Christianus
 1 From Jesus of Nazareth to Nicholas of Cusa
  1.1 The First Christians
  1.2 About the Hermetic Theosophy
  1.3 Hermes and the Church Fathers
  1.4 Hermes and Plato (429-347 BCE) on God, the Soul and the Mind
  1.5 Hermes and Philo of Alexandria (20 BCE-50 CE)
  1.6 The Chaldean Oracles
  1.7 Hermes and Gn
  1.8 Hermes and a Neoplatonist: Plotinus (c.205-270)
  1.9 Iamblichus (c.245-c.325)
  1.10 The Early Christian Church
  1.11 Pseudo-dionysius the Areopagite (c.500)
  1.12 The Division of East and West
  1.13 Hermes, Plato and Christianity in the Middle Ages
  1.14 Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464)
 2 Christian Hermetism in the Renaissance: The Corpus Hermeticum and Some Early Translators
  2.1 About the Corpus Hermeticum
  2.2 Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499)
  2.3 Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494)
  2.4 Francesco Giorgio (1466-1540)
  2.5 Lodovico Lazzarelli (1447-1500): The Corpus Hermeticum and his Commentary - Crater Hermetis

2 The Transmission and Reception of Christian Hermetism in France and England in the Long Sixteenth Century: 'L'âge d'or de L'hermétisme Religieux' (Jean Dagens)
 1 Introduction
 2 John Colet (c.1466-1519)
 3 Thomas More (1478-1535)
 4 Erasmus (1466/9-1536)
 5 Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim (1486-1535)
 6 Hermes in France: Translation, Transmission and Reception by Court and Episcopate
 7 Hermes in Late Tudor England: The Transmission and Reception of the Hermetic Texts
 8 The Family of Love in England
 9 Familism and Hermetism Compared
 10 Philippe du Plessis Mornay (1549-1623)
 11 Giordano Bruno (1548-1600)
 12 John Dee (1527-1608)

  PART 2

3 Love's Labour's Lost: The Path to Self-knowledge Deferred
 1 Dating the Play
 2 France 1572-1579-1585 - An Experiment in Religious Toleration: From the Marriage to the Reunion to the Final Separation
 3 Hermetic thought and Hermes Himself in the Play
 4 Hermes Trismegistus in the Discourse of the Day
 5 England and France 1589-1598 - The Political Landscape: From the Accession of Henri IV to the Edict of Nantes
 6 Characters Drawn from Literature and from Life
 7 Love's Labour's Lost and Old Comedy
 8 An Unsatisfactory Conclusion

4 King Lear: The Path to Self-knowledge and Spiritual Regeneration
 1 The Critical Debate and Sources of King Lear
 2 The Transformation of Lear
 3 Lear's Essential Spirituality Contrasted with Gloucester's Materiality
 4 Three Kinds of Madness: Tom o'Bedlam, Lear, the Fool
 5 The Characterisation of Goneril and Regan in Hermetic Terms
 6 How Many Texts
 7 From Quarto to Folio: toward a Hermetic Exegesis of King Lear

5 Othello: The Path to Self-knowledge Reversed
 1 Othello: The Date and Source of the Play
 2 Othello and King Lear Compared and Contrasted
 3 Othello's Descent
 4 Free Will and Choice, Destiny and the Origin of Evil
 5 Iago: The Mind Reader

6 The Tempest: The Path to Immortality
 1 The Play in Performance and Print
 2 A Literal Reading
 3 A Metaphorical Reading: The Storm as Allegory, the Structure of the Play as Alchemical
 4 A Metaphysical Reading: The Immortal Soul
 5 Prospero as Hierophant
 6 Prospero as Christian and Hermetist: Shakespeare's Apotheosis

7 Shakespeare and the Path to Salvation
 1 Shakespeare's Religious Sympathies - Christian or Pagan
 2 Hermes in the Plays - Audi, Vide, Tace!
 3 A Religion of the Mind
 4 A Way Forward
 5 Shakespeare and the Reading Groups
 6 A Religion of the World
 7 An Age with Secrets

 Epilogue: Hidden in Plain Sight. The Hermeneutics of Suspicion

 Post Script
 Appendix 1: From Hermes to Hermes Trismegistus
 Appendix 2: More about the Hermetic Theosophy
 Appendix 3: From the Mémoires of Marguerite de Valois
 Appendix 4: The Family of Love, or Domus Charitatis
Of interest to students (baccalaureate, undergraduate and postgraduate, in school, college and university), and to academics and independent scholars in the following fields of inquiry: history of thought; history of Hermetic thought; Renaissance in Italy and France; early modern drama; Shakespeare; Reformation; religion and non-conformism in late Elizabethan and early Jacobean England.
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