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Religious Conversion in Early Modern English Drama


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  • Date Published: October 2020
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108701822

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About the Authors
  • Few subjects of the English stage have proved more alluring and enduring than religious conversion. The emergence of the Elizabethan theatre marked a profound shift in the way in which conversion was presented. If medieval drama had encouraged conversion without reservation, early Elizabethan plays started to question it. Considering over forty canonical and lesser known works, this study argues that more so than any other medium, early modern drama engaged with the question of the possibility of undergoing a radical transformation in faith and presented the period's understanding of it as fundamentally unsettled. Offering the first cross-religious exploration of conversion in early modern English drama, and presenting a new reading of William Shakespeare's tragedy Othello, Lieke Stelling reveals telling patterns in the stage's treatment of conversion and religious identity.

    • Delivers the first book-length study of religious conversion in early modern English drama
    • Combines examinations of broad scope of canonical and lesser known plays
    • The comprehensive appendix provide an overview of early modern English conversion plays
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    • Shortlisted, 2020 Shakespeare's Globe Book Award

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Religious Conversion in Early Modern English Drama offers a wonderfully controversial and compelling account of spiritual and interfaith conversions on the early modern English stage. Reading plays like Dr Faustus, The Renegado, Othello, and many others alongside sermons, pamphlets, travel writings, and personal narratives, Lieke Stelling enriches and updates our understanding of the confluence of religion and drama in the period. A wide variety of scholars will find this an important and engaging book.' Kurt Schreyer, University of Missouri, St Louis

    'Drawing on a wide range of canonical and non-canonical plays, Lieke Stelling makes a compelling case that the theatre is a central locus for debating religious conversion within and between religious faiths. This book will be of interest to scholars of early modern drama, but it should also be read by historians of the Reformation and of early modern religious identity more generally.' Adrian Streete, University of Glasgow

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2020
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108701822
    • length: 229 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 150 x 12 mm
    • weight: 0.34kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Spiritual Conversion:
    1. 'Be by me converted': medieval and reformation drama
    2. 'The whole summe of Christianitie': spiritual conversion in protestant sermons
    3. ''Twas I but 'tis not I': dramatic transformations of spiritual conversion
    Part II. Interfaith Conversion:
    4. 'More stable and perfect faith': religious diversification and the paradox of interfaith conversion
    5. 'False runagates' and 'superlunatical hypocrites': securing religious identity on the stage
    6. 'Most beautiful pagan
    most sweet Jew': preserving Christianity in authentic conversions
    7. 'For Christian shame': Othello's assimilation into Venice.

  • Author

    Lieke Stelling, Universiteit Utrecht, The Netherlands
    Lieke Stelling is Assistant Professor in English at Universiteit Utrecht, The Netherlands. She has published articles on early modern literature in English Literary Renaissance and Shakespeare Jahrbuch, and co-edited The Turn of The Soul: Representations of Religious Conversion in Early Modern Art and Literature, with Harald Hendrix and Todd M. Richardson (2012).


    • Shortlisted, 2020 Shakespeare's Globe Book Award

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