Florovsky Paper Abstract - The Tempest's Disenchantment: A Path to Re-Enchantment

Feast of the Holy Apostles Bartholomew & Barnabas

JOHN DRYDEN adapted and modified Shakespeare’s The Tempest nearly six decades after it was first performed displaying an important cultural and literary shift. Cultural shifts, most notably in religion, paved a literary path whereby the mystical medieval mindset was replaced with the cool logic of new science. This shift showed the surgical separation of the spiritual and physical realms within western civilization. The two versions of The Tempest show the dramatic change of the representation of the fantastical.

The changes seen in the late Renaissance and earlier modern period show the disenchantment of reality as articulated by Charles Taylor. The physical world and the spiritual realm were no longer inseparably linked by the end of the seventeenth century, but irreversibly separated. Brad Gregory argues that the Protestant Reformation largely contributed to cultural disenchantment and the secularization of modernity. Hans Boersma discusses this disenchantment when calling for a revival of sacramental ontology. While Taylor, Gregory, and Boersma’s ideas have been broadly applied to literary studies, a close examination of two texts within the seventeenth century to validate their claims has not been attempted. By applying Taylor and Gregory’s historical perspective of the secularization of western civilization and examining Boersma’s call for sacramental understandings, a clearer understanding of English literature emerges.

This project will focus specifically on the spiritually charged physical objects within Shakespeare’s version and their removal in Dryden’s to provide a clear comparison that establishes the cultural shift from the enchanted Middle Ages to logic and reason of modernity. This paper will attempt to establish the two-fold sacramental power of Shakepeare’s text and how this understanding relates to Boersma’s return to sacramental ontology. By examining the sacramental power of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, a path to recover sacramental theology lost in the Protestant Reformation can begin to materialize. 


Stuart Busenitz is a Protestant who teaches high school literature. He is currently working towards an MA in literary studies at Wichita State University.


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