Thomas Ramey Watson

Shakespeare and the Book of Common Prayer

Many people now think we should just avoid studying religion altogether. They want nothing to do with it, so they think ignoring it and its effects on the world will make things better and make us wiser. I firmly reject this notion. As with all issues, they get worse when ignored.

The Western world is indebted, good, bad and in-between, to Judeo-Christian thought. We need to study that all the more in order to understand our own culture.

We need to study other religions to understand them and the cultures they’ve influenced more too. We’ll never see peace, which stems always from truth and justice, without that.

From the article:

One of the last mysteries left in the study of Shakespeare’s plays is the biggest of them all: How do they achieve their particular magic? What can explain their hold over us? One answer to this question lies in Shakespeare’s use of a book with which most of us now have only a passing acquaintance, but which profoundly shaped his view of both this world and the other-worldly: the Book of Common Prayer.

The Book of Common Prayer is an extraordinary and too-often neglected work. It was first published in 1549, during the Reformation, as the handbook of the new English church which had just succeeded from Rome. The prayer book is foundational, both to the English church and state. Since the king and not the Pope was now head of the church, the Book of Common Prayer instituted and justified royal power, and English monarchs for the next century modified and edited the prayer book as soon as they arrived upon the throne. It is arguably the closest document Britain has to a constitution.


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