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Richard Hooker (1554–1600)

Martyn Percy

Subject Religion » Christianity

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1500-1599

Key-Topics Reformation, The, theology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405135078.2009.00031.x


Reading the works of Richard Hooker is not unlike trying to simultaneously study the writings of Shakespeare and Kant. It may (eventually) turn out to be a very rewarding experience, but it would require the full concentration of any scholar. And yet he is well known and well read by many Roman Catholics, scholars of rhetoric, historians, and political scientists. Indeed, it is not an overstatement to suggest that it is virtually impossible to understand the Anglican Church without having some grasp of Hooker, and specifically the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. Yet he is rarely read by general readers, although often alluded to. Why is this so? Part of the answer must lie in the density of his language, which to the unsuspecting reader will appear forbidding at first sight. Hooker wrote prose that was remarkable for its clarity, grace, and modernity: it was stately, dignified, and rhythmic. Although a polemicist, he is first and foremost a theologian, and he adopts an extraordinary range of tone in the presentation of his arguments. He is sometimes ironic and sarcastic, although not usually in relation to his Puritan opponents, whom he treats with respect. As an advocate, he adopts a number of personae: teacher, critic, wise expounder (maxims), respectful student (of the fathers and philosophers), fellow Christian, cleric, and moderate nationalist. Analysis of his writing reveals ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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