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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: June ::
Re: Was Shakespeare a Catholic?
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0475.  Wednesday, 14 June 1995.
 
(1)     From:   John Mucci <
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        Date:   Monday, 12 Jun 1995 19:01:53 -0400
        Subj:   Was Sh a Catholic?
 
(2)     From:   Sandye Chisholm <
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        Date:   Monday, 12 Jun 1995 21:22:24 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0471  Re: Was Shakespeare a Catholic?
 
(3)     From:   Dave Beenken <
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        Date:   Monday, 12 Jun 1995 20:47:24 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0459 Re: Was Shakespeare a Catholic?
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Mucci <
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Date:           Monday, 12 Jun 1995 19:01:53 -0400
Subject:        Was Sh a Catholic?
 
I am truly astonished at those members who aver it makes no difference whether
Shakespeare was of the Catholic faith or not. The question was one of
tremendous importance centuries previous, enough to have William Henry Ireland
try to settle the matter by concocting one of his Shakespeare manuscript
forgeries as a "Testament of Faith" to prove he was an Anglican.  If
Shakespeare were Jewish, wouldn't it matter tremendously so far as his concept
of Shylock goes?  If he had *no* faith, wouldn't it cast a more cynical light
on the manner in which he treats his character's religious expressions?
 
Certainly in Hamlet we see the character worrying about swearing by his sword,
worrying about sending Claudius to heaven if slain unawares, worrying about
going to hell if he commits suicide, worrying about burying a suicide, Ophelia,
in consecrated ground. He avoids the name "Jesus" as such, using the more
Latinized "Iesu", and that only once (unless you count his apocryphal
authorship in "Good friend, for Iesus sake forbeare..."). The comfort with
which he writes about friars and priests is one which sympathizes with them,
not mocks them, as so many other depictions of them are in literature of the
time.  If these are not the concerns of a practicing Catholic author, they are
those of a lapsed one.
 
It is indeed an emotional issue, not because one group or another feels
Shakespeare should have been "on our side," as it were, but we tend to feel
that the author was such an Everyman that pinning him down to one spiritual
tenet or another is demeaning to his universality.  On the contrary, I think
more speculation about him as a person with relevance to the plays themselves
is important to the study of his works: moreso than the endlessly
block-deletable disquisitions on Benny Hill or teddy bears.
 
J.Mucci
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sandye Chisholm <
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Date:           Monday, 12 Jun 1995 21:22:24 -0400
Subject: 6.0471  Re: Was Shakespeare a Catholic?
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0471  Re: Was Shakespeare a Catholic?
 
Is it not a bit anachronistic to think of Shakespeare as "having" or "not
having" particular religous leanings--either Catholic, Protestant, or even
Pagan--and dismissing their existence as "so much fluff" as someone noted, when
Shakespeare lived in one of the most highly-charged religious centuries?  All
aspects of life were determined by religion...consider the economics of the
dissolution, the drama of life and death during the Henrician, Edwardian and
Marian reformations...why, it seems that the entire Elizabethan mindset is the
creation of a world with a confused and questioning sense of order.  How can
his religious affiliation *not* affect both his world-view and how society
measured up to it?  Can we not consider the entire "spiritual malaise" a
representation of religious upheaval itself?  Shakespeare is no more immune to
that upheaval than any yeoman or monarch would have been.
 
Sandra Chisholm
Penn State University
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dave Beenken <
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Date:           Monday, 12 Jun 1995 20:47:24 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 6.0459 Re: Was Shakespeare a Catholic?
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0459 Re: Was Shakespeare a Catholic?
 
>Shakespear could have been an atheist, a conclusion some have drawn after
>seeing <i>King Lear</i>.
>
>Yours, Bill Godshalk
 
What came first, *Lear* or the bard's 'Last Will & Testament'? I would think
that after taking a gander at Will's will, one would rule out atheism.
 
guessingly/questioningly, Dave Beenken
 

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