Signifying Nothing

If … we were asked to select one monument of human civilization that should survive to some future age … we should probably choose the works of Shakespeare. In them we recognize the truest portrait and best memorial of man. Yet the archæologists of that future age … would misconceive our life in one important respect. They would hardly understand that man had had a religion. …

Shakespeare could be idealistic when he dreamed, as he could be spiritual when he reflected. … It is all the more remarkable, therefore, that we should have to search through all the works of Shakespeare to find half a dozen passages that have so much as a religious sound, and that even these passages, upon examination, should prove not to be the expression of any deep religious conception. If Shakespeare had been without metaphysical capacity, or without moral maturity, we could have explained his strange insensibility to religion; but as it is, we must marvel at his indifference and ask ourselves what can be the causes of it.

— George Santayana, “The Absence of Religion in Shakespeare,” in Interpretations of Poetry and Religion, 1900