cover image Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being

Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being

Ted Hughes. Farrar Straus Giroux, $35 (524pp) ISBN 978-0-374-26204-4

For English poet Hughes, Shakespeare was ``a prophetic shaman of the Puritan revolution,'' his plays mythic reenactments of the holy war between Catholic and Puritan fanaticism. This arcane, often farfetched study maintains that the Bard tapped into the ``source myth'' of Catholicism in Venus and Adonis : the myth of the Great Goddess and her sacrificed god. In The Rape of Lucrece , Shakespeare mined the rival source myth of Puritanism: the enraged Jehovan god who abhors the Goddess for her presumed treachery or whorishness. In this highly speculative analysis, Hughes follows the workings of these two interlocking myths through Shakespeare's plays, whose overall trajectory, he argues, is an attempt to escape from tragic destiny to secular freedom. In King Lear , according to Hughes, Shakespeare reinvented an ancient Egyptian cosmology to illuminate the distorting ethos of the English Reformation. And from Cymbeline to The Tempest , he argues, the Bard used the Gnostic myth about the Female who represents the hero's own soul. Hughes's ambitious critique will appeal primarily to devotees of myth and Jung. (Nov.)