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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: June ::
Re: Was Shakespeare a Catholic?
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0459.  Friday, 9 June 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Terrence Ross <
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        Date:   Thursday, 8 Jun 1995 10:05:42 -0400
        Subj:   Was Shakespeare a Catholic?
 
(2)     From:   W.L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Thursday, 08 Jun 1995 10:40:02 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0452  Re: Was Shakespeare Catholic?
 
(3)     From:   Robert Appelbaum <
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        Date:   Thursday, 8 Jun 1995 10:05:10 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0456 Re: Was Shakespeare a Catholic?
 
(4)     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Thursday, 8 Jun 1995 22:57:01 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0456  Re: Was Shakespeare a Catholic?
 
(5)     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Thursday, 8 Jun 1995 21:03:17 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0456 Re: Was Shakespeare a Catholic?
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terrence Ross <
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Date:           Thursday, 8 Jun 1995 10:05:42 -0400
Subject:        Was Shakespeare a Catholic?
 
Questions of the form "Was Shakespeare an X?" are always in danger of being
decided by our rooting interests.  If I am an X, and I love and admire
Shakespeare, surely he was an X as well.  The answer to the question is usually
"He could have been," which is another way of saying, "He probably wasn't."  Of
course, you don't have to be Catholic to wonder whether Shakespeare was, but it
probably helps.  Today the X term is "Catholic," a few weeks ago it was
"homosexual," but nobody since Woody Allen has posed the question, "Was
Shakespeare three women?"  He could have been.
 
Terry Ross
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W.L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Thursday, 08 Jun 1995 10:40:02 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0452  Re: Was Shakespeare Catholic?
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0452  Re: Was Shakespeare Catholic?
 
Dave Kathman has almost all the bases covered, but not quite.  Shakespeare
could have been an atheist, a conclusion some have drawn after seeing
<i>King Lear</i>.
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robert Appelbaum <
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Date:           Thursday, 8 Jun 1995 10:05:10 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 6.0456 Re: Was Shakespeare a Catholic?
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0456 Re: Was Shakespeare a Catholic?
 
Peter Donaldson's remarks shifting the ground of discussion from national
differences to the construction of national differences, and the role W.S. and
humo(u)r may play in it, might also be adopted in the discussion of
Catholicism.  One may ask, what is being constructed when individuals inquire
into whether W.S. was "Catholic"?  And one may also ask, how do the plays
themselves construct or avoid constructing religious questions?  How do our own
readings, classroom discussions, and performances perpetuate the question of
religious differences as W.S. constructs or fails to construct it?
 
And here is another question:  What is Hamlet's religion?
 
-- Robert Appelbaum
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <
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Date:           Thursday, 8 Jun 1995 22:57:01 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0456  Re: Was Shakespeare a Catholic?
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0456  Re: Was Shakespeare a Catholic?
 
Zoltan Abraham mentions Thomas Tallis and William Byrd as examples of Catholics
who were successful in Elizabethan times. I don't know about Tallis, but
Elizabeth had to use her influence several times to keep Byrd out of trouble,
as she did as well with Sebastian Westcott, who was in charge of Paul's Boys.
If it hadn't been for their talents, which she required, she wouldn't have
protected them. Life for an English recusant was extremely difficult.Thomas
Lodge is an interesting case in point. His conversion to catholicism put him in
a number of difficulties, although he managed to survive them, ultimately
taking a degree in medicine at a catholic university in France, returning to
England to practise medicine. Although he was listed in one of the contemporary
documents as one of the top medical practitioners of his day, he was forced to
restrict his practice to members of his own faith.
 
Stephanie Hughes
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Thursday, 8 Jun 1995 21:03:17 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 6.0456 Re: Was Shakespeare a Catholic?
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0456 Re: Was Shakespeare a Catholic?
 
But it's obvious that whether Shakespeare was Catholic is important.  His works
reflect a certain period in the history of philosophy (or "ideology", if you're
into polit-lit), and it obviously impacts on our reading if we imagine the
author as holding Catholic views, just as the "protestant poetics" of Milton
condition our reading of *Paradise Lost*.
 
The problem with the debate seems, IMHO, to be that we assume "Catholicism" to
possess a certain fixed, referential meaning, just as in criticial theory, we
perform a sort of mental inertia in assuming "Marxism," "cultural materialism,"
"new criticism," etc., to also have simple meanings.
 
The fact that Shakespeare may have been a recussant only impacts on the plays
if we can understand not only a vague sympathy, but an implied philosophy.  One
can say that the Pope is catholic, and also that the current crackpot dictator
of Zaire is catholic, but this does not mean that they are of a single mind.
The role of constructing Shakespeare's outlook (or the outlook of his time, as
always already inscribed in and overdetermining him, to be unnecessarily
verbose) isn't really served by just labelling him unless the label can be tied
to something concrete.
 
Cheers,
Sean.
 

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