The Reverend Edward Casaubon, in Middlemarch, working himself to death in pursuit of the Key to All Mythologies, is an awful warning to scholars who seek to reduce untidy and complex ideas to a system, with inevitably skewed results. Clare Asquith’s Shakespeare and the Resistance, the successor to her Shadowplay (2005), is in the line of descent from Ted Hughes’s maverick Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being (1992), which proposed, with a mixture of insight and obfuscation, that Shakespeare’s narrative poems Venus and Adonis (1593) and The Rape of Lucrece (1594) engaged with mythical archetypes and occult Neoplatonism to dramatize the enmity between the Catholic and Puritan wings of the Elizabethan church.


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