"You are in the state of grace?" The Absence of Grace and Semantic Embranglement in Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida

Roberta Kwan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

From its opening, language, and in particular its dysfunction, is reflexively foregrounded in Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida. While some critics have followed John Dryden's disparagement of the drama's language, this essay argues that the playwright knowingly constructed his play such that its linguistic disorder exhibits and embodies the endemic disorderliness and disintegration—cosmic, moral, interpersonal and subjective—that characterises its world. This interrelationship of language and ontological state can be elucidated by exploring the significance to it of the question that, by virtue of the Reformation, became an axis of early modern theology and its far-reaching upheavals—how one becomes an eternal recipient of the grace of God. Perhaps surprisingly, Troilus contains echoes of the sixteenth-century controversies over grace. After exploring the interrelationship of language and the doctrine of divine grace, this essay considers how the absence of this grace is implicated in the ostensible semantic embranglement engendered by Troilus’ language. The focus is upon the play's central scenes, and the perversion of the speech act of promise.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)362-382
Number of pages21
JournalEnglish Studies
Volume97
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2016

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