Chapter 2 showed how Antonio’s Revenge and Troilus and Cressida subvert providentialist ideology and its corollary, natural law. Here I want to explore further the ideological dimension of providentialist belief in the period and also some of the forces making for what W. R. Elton describes as its sceptical disintegration. Since what follows is concerned almost entirely with these forces — which, in relation to providentialism, were intentionally and unintentionally subversive — it should be stressed at the outset that the very fact of their existence presupposed providentialism as a dominant discourse. Further, even when successfully challenged, ideologies rarely dissolve quietly away; rather, they go through various stages of reaction, displacement, and transformation.
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