The undiscovered countries: Shakespeare and the Afterlife
Humanities and Teacher Education
Afterlife, Antony and Cleopatra, Hamlet, Henry V, King Lear, Macbeth, Measure for measure, Merchant of venice, Othello, Richard III, Titus andronicus
The multiple uses of religion in Shakespeare’s plays seem to counter each other at every turn. In one respect, though, I have found a surprising consistency. Moments when Shakespeare’s drama imagines the afterlife are moments that lend significant insights into the play’s action or characterization, even though the image of one undiscovered country may differ drastically from another. Across the canon, the afterlife may appear as a place of religious judgment, as in Othello, Hamlet, Merchant of Venice; as a classical Elysium or Hades where the spirit or shadow removes elsewhere (Antony and Cleopatra, Titus Andronicus); as Abraham’s Bosom-a place of rest between death and the Last Judgment (Henry V, Richard III, Hamlet); or an unidentifiable life to come (Measure for Measure, Macbeth, King Lear).
Clegg, Cyndia Susan, "The undiscovered countries: Shakespeare and the Afterlife" (2019). Pepperdine University, All Faculty Open Access Publications. Paper 73.