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Mortal ThoughtsReligion, Secularity, & Identity in Shakespeare and Early Modern Culture$
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Brian Cummings

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199677719

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199677719.001.0001

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Soliloquy & Secularization

Soliloquy & Secularization

(p.168) 5 Soliloquy & Secularization
Mortal Thoughts

Brian Cummings

Oxford University Press

The idea of the soliloquy is central to Shakespeare's dramatic poetry, especially as a dramatist of personhood. Indeed, it is the argument of Catherine Belsey in The Subject of Tragedy (1985) that the modern liberal ideology of individualism is epitomized by Hamlet, and that this individualism is epitomized by the soliloquy. This chapter traces the development of the soliloquy in plays such as Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, Richard II, Hamlet, Measure for Measure, and Macbeth. It also examines the history of the word ‘soliloquy’ and its origins in religious meditation, in models based on Augustine. The chapter rejects the idea of secularization in order to consider other models for the Shakespearian soliloquy, especially devotional meditation on the moment of death.

Keywords:   soliloquy, secularization, meditation, death, devotion, Shakespeare

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