The Will Not in Bondage: An Interpretation of Free Will in Shakespeare’s Pure Tragedies

Xuemei ZHANG


The tension between Christian Predestination and Free Will is the theme Shakespearean tragedy frequently deals with. As it is the tragedy that often masterly generalizes the playwright’s ultimate concerns, the paper, based on a re-examination of the fates of the heroes and themes revealed in Shakespeare’s pure tragedies from the perspectives of Free Will as the gift of grace and that in man’s exertion and judgments, suggests that Shakespeare, though living and writing under Anglican circumstances, shows in great measure an anti-Calvinistic view of Free Will, to be elaborated clearly, that man’s will can be reconciled with God’s will, that the path toward eternity and redemption is neither simple nor clear, and that man is not saved by good works, but by grace through faith that works well. However, his lack of strong confidence in the infinite has constantly aroused controversies on the adherence of his Christian faith.


Shakespeare; Tragedies; Free will; John Calvin; Predestination; The Church of England

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