Think about it. I've travelled across an ocean and a couple of islands and several countries to get to Oxford, and now the furthest I travel each day is around the block to the library. Then I sit all day in once place, only travelling in my mind. But, O! the places I go!
So I thought maybe I'd share what I'm writing now, little by little. It's a ridiculously massive paper, but it's a massive topic. My biggest concern is whether or not I'm being spiritually honest in what I'm writing. I believe that Shakespeare probably believes it, and that it is possible for someone (me) to make the point I'm making validly from the text, but theologically I'm a bit dubious. See, the conclusion (spoiler warning) is something like:
"Shakespeare’s text is hard to figure out. It has both Catholic and Protestant features. The Bible must be hard to figure out, since 2000 years of debate has not solved the Catholic/Protestant divide. Shakespeare does not come down on one side of these big theological questions. Critics of The Winter’s Tale, like Christian theologians, take the same text and come up with opposite, fully-convinced, well-argued, logical, solidly supported conclusions. This is not to say that there are no correct answers, nor that all interpretations are equally valid. Rather, it is to say that a good piece of writing generates more pieces of writing. Viewing The Winter’s Tale through the literary edifice of the Bible has the reciprocal effect of offering a possible Shakespearean interpretation of the fertility of Church History and the Biblical text."
But I don't believe that the Bible is in any way indeterminate, nor that the Bible equally supports Catholic and Protestant readings. Do you see my problem? But anyway, OK, here's a rough draft for the opening of my paper. I've taken out all the parenthetical citations just to make it tidy; no fear, there's no plagarism in the real thing.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Two Fools . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
A Gallimaufry of the Gospel:
Mixed Genre and Scriptural Structure in The Winter’s Tale
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for
and certain of what we do not see.
This is what the ancients were commended for.
Like any good preacher, Paulina begins the conclusion of her on-stage/back-stage sermon with “It is required / You do awake your faith.” It is a commonplace in Evangelical churches that every sermon must come around in the end to either the person of Jesus Christ or the listeners’ need for faith in Him. But is it as obvious that Paulina—or Shakespeare—is evoking a specifically Christian, let alone Evangelical, or even Reformation, faith? After all, if The Winter’s Tale is a romance, as little to be believed as a fairy tale, its injunctions apply only to the on-stage crowd and have no metatheatrical application or literal religious reference. Furthermore, the play is set in a vaguely Classical time and place, the gods of the Olympic pantheon freely and explicitly invoked. The name of God does not appear anywhere in the play, although “gods” and “goddesses” do. Yet again, Scripture quotations interspersed throughout the text, and allusions to Christian theology, specifically Pauline doctrine and Mariological practices, abound. Scholars’ religious interpretations range from exact, point-by-point Calvinist allegories through comparisons with Catholic practices relating to the worship of Mary and the veneration of images. Certainly Renaissance authors were comfortable functioning in a dual Christian/Classical universe, but it would be poor scholarship to suppose that the specific mixture and organization of these elements in a given work has no significance.
It seems to me that the structure of The Winter’s Tale resembles that of the Christian Bible. The play is not, however, a simple Creation-Fall-Redemption narrative. Rather, its generic development from tragedy to comedy with a pastoral interlude resembles that of Old Testament-Intertestamental Period-New Testament. Internal thematic elements support this reading, which in turn sheds light on the whole question of what faith Paulina requires and which Faith, if any, Shakespeare endorses. Finally, viewing The Winter’s Tale through the literary edifice of the Bible has the reciprocal effect of offering a possible Shakespearean interpretation of the indeterminacy of Church History and the Biblical text.