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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: August ::
Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1365  Tuesday 3 August 1999.

[1]     From:   Dana Shilling <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Aug 1999 11:02:49 -0400
        Subj:   Religious Doctrine

[2]     From:   Judith Craig <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Aug 1999 13:01:56 -0500
        Subj:   Hoghton Controversy

[3]     From:   David N. Beauregard <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Aug 1999 20:55:27 EDT
        Subj:   Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy

[4]     From:   Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 3 Aug 1999 11:21:09 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1354 Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dana Shilling <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Aug 1999 11:02:49 -0400
Subject:        Religious Doctrine

I think Shakespeare was writing for an audience that thought there was a
good thing (called "true religion") and a bad thing ("heresy" on one
side, "recusancy" on the other), much as Readers' Digest readers of the
1950s thought that "Americanism" was opposed to "Communism"-though none
of them could give any very solid account of the ideology of each.

I don't consider Isabella and Vincentio to be positive clerical
portraits-just the opposite. One of the basic principles of the
Shakespearean cosmos is "Don't take advice from friars," and another is
"Women should get married and have children-being a nun is stupid."

Shakespeare either believed in Purgatory or expected his audience to do
so (Hamlet Sr. certainly hasn't gotten a day pass from Hell), and
thought/expected them to think that auricular confession ("shriving")
was relevant to one's post-death fate, so a Catholic influence is
apparent, but overall I would describe Shakespeare as an anti-Catholic
writer.

Dana Shilling

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Judith Craig <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Aug 1999 13:01:56 -0500
Subject:        Hoghton Controversy

Clifford Stetner writes:

>Perhaps I am prejudiced by romantic notions of genius, but I tend to
>believe that a mind like Shakespeare's, while sympathizing with all
>manifestations of human struggle and passion, although he might defend
>the positions of his patrons be they Catholic Lancastrians or Protestant
>courtiers, would remain independent of cultural ideologies.

I don't agree with everything Clifford Stetner thinks, but this position
on Shakespeare's sense of religion seems accurate to me.

I have an essay available by FAX or snail mail on my website, (I have
not yet got the correct file for a download yet) that offers a reading
of "The Tempest" based on Shakespeare's life and a defense of his
essentially religious point of view.  My web site is:

http://homepages.msn.com/LibraryLawn/je-mc/shakespeare.html

I do not, however, think he was a practicing Catholic.

Judy Craig

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David N. Beauregard <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Aug 1999 20:55:27 EDT
Subject:        Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy

Clifford Stetner writes:

>How is it possible to rule out: 4) that he [Shakespeare] was a radical
>Protestant in
>the tradition of Edward VI, 5) that he was an atheist, 5) that he was a
>Satanist, 7) that he advocated a form of Anglicanism that did not become
>established, 8) that he took communion?

WS may have been anything, as you contend. But possibilities are not
arguments. In terms of plausibility and evidence, it would seem there
are only three plausible profiles which can be defended. No one that I
know off has offered evidence, or even argument (as opposed to mere
assertion), that WS was an atheist, a radical Protestant, a Satanist, or
took communion in the Anglican Church. These possibilities can be
excluded simply on the grounds of lack of evidence. The existing
evidence (echoes of the Prayer Book and the Geneva Bible plus references
to Catholic doctrine but not to Reformed doctrine) suggests that he
attended CofE services but remained a Catholic, that is, that he was a
"church papist."

>Until I read your article, I must suppose that an exiled Milanese would
>probably not be a conforming Anglican, and, therefore, Prospero's theology is
>Prospero's and not demonstrably Shakespeare's.

An excellent objection. To be sure, Prospero is an exiled Milanese,
perhaps speaking in decorum, but in the Epilogue he is "outside the
context of the play" speaking to an English audience in Roman Catholic
theological terms. He seems to me the actor WS himself. His RC terms are
consistent with the other RC doctrines referred to in the plays. "Let
your indulgence set me free?" How can that apply to Prospero?

>To call Shakespeare Catholic is not to say, merely, that he retains a belief
>in Purgatory,
>but that he advocates a repeal of the schism with Rome (involving a return of
>church lands bestowed on the new English gentry, subjection to the enemy
>States of Spain and France, Spanish marriages for Elizabeth I and princess
>Elizabeth, and a wholesale violation of the new spirit of English nationalism
>which Shakespeare seems to me passionately to embrace).

Again, as a Roman Catholic, WS did not necessarily advocate the return
of church lands, subjection to Spain, etc. in violation of "the new
spirit of English nationalism." Conservative English Catholics, eg.,
Northumberland, Fr. Thomas Wright, Queen Anne, were respectful of the
existing political arrangement.

>He [Aragon in MV] believes as all good Catholics that salvation is
>attainable through good works…. A true Christian must give and hazard rather
>than get and get.  If he gets, it is only through the grace of a God who is
>subject to no obligations to human concepts of
>merit.

All good Catholics do not believe "that salvation is attainable through
good works." This was and still is a common misconception. For
authoritative statements, see Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae (1a2ae,
question 109, art.  5) and the Council of Trent, Session 6: "If anyone
says that man can be justified before God by his own works without
divine grace through Jesus Christ, let him be anathema" (Canon 1). With
grace one can merit, as Helena indicates in All's Well when she
attributes her miracle to "inspired merit."

Finally, WS may have been an "autonomous individual" (of the sort
invented by Immanuel Kant) who remained "independent of cultural
ideologies." But that is highly unlikely, as you imply when you find WS
passionately embracing English nationalism and defending the Tudor myth.
WS lived through history, not above it in some transcendent space. If he
could have embraced English nationalism (I agree on that) he certainly
could have been committed to Catholicism.  At any rate, the Lancastrian
connection puts us position to develop a new profile of WS, which in the
opinion of an increasing number of scholars, is more in line with the
existing evidence and enables us to better explain the plays. WS is no
longer simply the loyal servant of the queen, but someone living in
tension with the Tudor and Stuart absolute monarchs. Can we really
imagine Shakespeare as a Renaissance servant to an absolutist national
state, or do we conceive of him more accurately as in favor of the
Medieval conception of limited monarchy?

All the best,
David N. Beauregard

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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Date:           Tuesday, 3 Aug 1999 11:21:09 +1000
Subject: 10.1354 Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1354 Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy

Clifford Stetner writes:

>I don't see why a Catholic should be capable of sarcasm towards nuns any
>less than an atheist or Anglican could find something good to say about
>them...

Absolutely!  Anecdotally, one can see evidence of this in the work of a
rather impressive number of stand-up comedians and contemporary
satirists who are (or at least were raised as) Catholics, who take on
nuns, priests, and the Church with hysterically funny (and often rather
painful) results.  I'm not saying it's impossible, but at least now it's
somewhat more difficult for a non-Catholic to lampoon Catholicism as
effectively as someone who knows Catholicism from the inside out.

But...

>To call Shakespeare
>Catholic is not to say, merely, that he retains a belief in Purgatory,
>but that he advocates a repeal of the schism with Rome (involving a
>return of church lands bestowed on the new English gentry, subjection to
>the enemy States of Spain and France, Spanish marriages for Elizabeth I
>and princess Elizabeth, and a wholesale violation of the new spirit of
>English nationalism which Shakespeare seems to me passionately to
>embrace).

Hmmm.  Dr. Stetner seems to be arguing that if Shakespeare had in fact
not advocated these political positions, he would have comfortably fit
into the segment of the Anglican community described as "conservatives
who would retain all of Catholicism, simply shifting sovereignty from
Roman Pope to English monarch."  (I may be misconstruing the
argument-correct me if I am!)

Maybe...but maybe not.  Again, anecdotally, I know a rather large number
of contemporary Roman Catholics (me included) who strongly disagree with
many of the Church's (or more specifically, John Paul II's) political
and policy views.  When it is proposed that we could simply join that
Anglican Communion, which retains almost all of the RC liturgy and
foundational theology, but without the regressive attitudes on
sexuality, women, choice, etc., we say "Well, yes, but...."  And have no
effective countering arguments beyond that fact that we simply don't
want to.

As I said, it's anecdotal.  But it seems to me possible that the
historical Shakespeare-if (a big if) he did have a Catholic
heritage-might have had similar attitudes.  It does not seem
unreasonable to me that a person (let's say, Shakespeare) in the late
16th century, might have disliked some or all of Rome's political
policies, while retaining an not altogether rational attachment to
Catholic identity, even if that identity had to be carefully concealed.

Of course, Clifford Stetner offers an alternate, and quite plausible
alternative:

>Perhaps I am prejudiced by romantic notions of genius, but I tend to
>believe that a mind like Shakespeare's, while sympathizing with all
>manifestations of human struggle and passion, although he might defend
>the positions of his patrons be they Catholic Lancastrians or Protestant
>courtiers, would remain independent of cultural ideologies.

I like the suggestion that Shakespeare may have had Catholic Lancastrian
patrons without necessarily being a recusant Catholic himself...this
would answer a lot of questions if it were so.

Cheers,
Karen Peterson-Kranz
Dept. of English & Applied Linguistics
University of Guam
 

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