This essay contends that medieval drama would be much better served, particularly in connection to Shakespeare, if the field were to drop its resentment of “evolution.” The standard critique, as first launched by O. B. Hardison, Jr. against E. K. Chambers, is almost completely bogus, owing to Hardison's symptomatic and crypto-religious misconception of Darwin. Chambers's evolutionary framework derives equally from Nietzsche (in particular, his concept of genealogy), and this nineteenth-century inheritance is something to embrace rather than piously castigate. A truly “Darwinian” perspective in the tradition of Nietzsche would help liberate the field from the tyranny of positivist historicism, for one thing, while offering a crucial account of the drama's role in an ongoing series of challenges to the coherence and legitimacy of Christianity.
John Parker; Who's Afraid of Darwin? Revisiting Chambers and Hardison... and Nietzsche. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 January 2010; 40 (1): 7–35. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-2009-012
Download citation file: