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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: August ::
Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1374  Thursday 5 August 1999.

[1]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 4 Aug 1999 08:49:43 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1371 Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy

[2]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 04 Aug 1999 13:07:24 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1365 Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy

[3]     From:   David N. Beauregard <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 4 Aug 1999 16:29:01 EDT
        Subj:   Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy

[4]     From:   David Kathman <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 4 Aug 1999 19:26:26 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1371 Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 4 Aug 1999 08:49:43 EDT
Subject: 10.1371 Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1371 Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy

>For evidence that it was possible for an Elizabethan to have Roman
>Catholic ideas about religion without sharing official Roman Catholic
>political views we need to remember that through much of the
>pre-Reformation period, when the English church was formally affiliated
>with Rome, the English resented and resisted papal and imperial
>domination

To add to David's reasonable analysis: it's important to remember, when
considering propositions of this sort, how new "Anglicanism" was, and
how it came into being: Henry VIII's objection to the Church of Rome was
not doctrinal (except in one very specific matter); he had no particular
distaste for the RC liturgy or any of the pomp and circumstance that
would later become the target of puritanical reform; and he did have a
staunchly Roman Catholic daughter, who, after her little brother's
untimely demise, restored Catholicism to England with a bloody vengeance
(hence her nickname).  The formerly Catholic English people became
Anglican because Henry said they had to; they reverted to Catholicism
because Mary said (on pain of severing this from this) they must; and
under Elizabeth, and especially before she was declared anathema by
papal bull, and decried as a bastard usurper, they could be whatever
they chose to be, as long as they didn't practice anything but
Anglicanism openly, or join Elizabeth's Stuart cousin in popish plots
against her life and crown.  Most of them couldn't read or write, and
they did largely whatever the clerisy told them to do in matters
theological (which is why the Reformation was so successful, after
Luther and the Ninety-Five Theses).  Certainly, the people were
confused-especially after the Protestant sectarianism that would
flourish under James and Charles I began to develop-so it would not be
surprising to find anyone but the most learned subscribing unwittingly
to an ecumenical personal doctrine, almost by default.  (Then too,
Anglicanism, especially the high church variety, differs very little in
this period from Catholicism, except in its de-emphasis of Mariolatry,
and in its public vs. private confession.)  Categorization of anyone but
the most religiously vocal individuals of Elizabethan England is
therefore at best a very iffy thing.

Best,
Carol Barton

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Wednesday, 04 Aug 1999 13:07:24 -0400
Subject: 10.1365 Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1365 Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy

I have previously noted on the List that WS's works show a remarkable
internal consistency with regard to religious matters.  In a body of
work that is shot through with historical and cultural anachronisms, the
comparative paucity of theological mistakes of this sort is suggestive.
With the exception of two or three errant "Marry"s and Polixenes'
reference to Judas (WT,I.ii), I know of none.  (The abbess in C/E might
be another exception, but there is no compelling reason to assume that
she was not a votary of a pagan deity.)

The fact that the plays set in Catholic countries or in Catholic eras
depict Catholic theology does not suggest to me that WS was Catholic in
practice or prejudice.  The religious aspects of those plays are just
what one would expect of the place and time.  The pre-Christian plays
are equally respectful of their religious environments.  Thus, while the
Christian plays treat Greek and Roman mythology in much the same way as
we regard it post-Edith Hamilton, the Pagan plays treat the classical
mythos as dogma.  Diana, Apollo and Jupiter are figures of speech in the
Christian plays but real gods in Per, WT and Cym.

To my mind, all this suggests that WS had at most a non-theistic
attitude, i.e., he found religion interesting but not personally
influential.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David N. Beauregard <
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Date:           Wednesday, 4 Aug 1999 16:29:01 EDT
Subject:        Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy

Judy Craig writes:

The evidence for the Lancashire connection may indeed eventually
crumble, but not upon Schoenbaum's "close inspection." Schoenbaum is
only one authority and would hardly claim to be infallible. Moreover, it
is not so much a matter of "new evidence" as of reconstructing and
reconfiguring the evidence we have. Thus Gary Taylor, editor of the
Oxford Shakespeare, has argued that the old Shakespeare (a la
Schoenbaum) is a blank, and he summarizes the evidence for Shakespeare's
Catholicism (ELR 1994). We need a new profile to better account for both
the biographical and the literary record.

Shakespeare's mother and father were Catholic. So apparently was his
daughter Susanna in 1606. Three of his four schoolmasters were Catholic.
He did not take communion in his parish in London. The lack of
documentary evidence suggests a "church papist" profile more than a
Church of England one, i.e., he had nothing to lose by explicitly
declaring his Protestantism. He had everything to lose by manifesting
his Catholicism.

Although some have maintained there is no evidence of Shakespeare's
Catholicism in the plays, I would disagree. The Epilogue to the Tempest
is quintessentially Roman Catholic, e.g., "Let your indulgence set me
free" (for the full argument see my article in Renascence 1997). The
theology of grace in All's Well is also Catholic, and so Helena is
portrayed as a miracle-worker in healing the King (which she attributes
to "inspired merit") and she is dressed as a pilgrim (see my forthcoming
article in Renascence 1999). The positive portrayal of Franciscan friars
and nuns in Measure for Measure reverses the usual conventions in
Protestant drama, where friars are reviled as vice figures. In MND
(1.1), the cloistered life of nuns is described as "thrice-blessed."
Etc., etc.

In short, Shakespeare's plays employ the notions of intercessory prayer,
merit, indulgences, the value of monastic life, pilgrimage, virtually
all the doctrinal realities reviled by Reformed theologians. In the face
of all this, can we seriously continue to claim that he was a Protestant
of any stripe?  I don't think so. Valuable as it is, Schoenbaum's
biography is "unconvincing" on the religious question because he rules
out the subject as "tendentious" (114).

David N. Beauregard

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Kathman <
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Date:           Wednesday, 4 Aug 1999 19:26:26 -0600
Subject: 10.1371 Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1371 Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy

Judith Craig wrote:

>David N. Beauregard writes:
>
>>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.
>
>I have not read Honingmann's argument in detail but have closely read
>Schoenbaum's Life and am simply unconvinced that Shakespeare was a
>Catholic.  What is the evidence for it other than a paper found in a
>roof and Aubrey's remark that he was in his younger days a country
>schoolmaster?

It's primarily circumstantial evidence: an awful lot of people with
close connections to William Shakespeare, both before and after he
became famous, had ties to a relatively small area of Lancashire
centered around Hoghton Tower.  For example, John Cottom was from
Tarnacre, Lancashire, close to the Hoghtons (with whom he also had close
family ties), and his brother Thomas was a priest who was hanged for
treason in 1582.  He became Stratford schoolmaster in 1579, two years
before "Shakshafte" showed up in Lancashire, and left there in 1581,
soon after Shakshafte seems to have left Lancashire.  The fortunes of
Shakespeare's father had turned sour over the past few years; a 1576
crackdown on illegal wool dealing, from which the elder Shakespeare
apparently derived quite a bit of income, would have hit hard, and if
John was Catholic, as appears from the Spiritual Testament, there was
also increasing pressure on Catholics to conform.  The theory goes that
when Cottom arrived in Stratford, he told the Shakespeares about an
opportunity with a wealthy family back home, and young Will took it,
staying there for two years.  Park Honan, in his new biography,
basically accepts this scenario, and points out some descriptions in the
works of Lancashire-like topography that Shakespeare would not have
encountered in Stratford or London.  (Yeah, I realize that kind of
evidence is dubious.)  There are numerous other Lancashire connections
to Shakespeare, such as John Weever, who had connections to the Hoghtons
and wrote a poem to Shakespeare in 1599; Thomas Savage, who was from
Lancashire near the Hoghtons and served as a trustee in the building of
the Globe; and the Stanley family (who basically ruled Lancashire),
since Shakespeare was probably a member of Strange's Men, and was said
by Fuller to have composed the epitaphs on the Stanley tomb at Tong.
There's more stuff in Honigmann's book, but those are the basics.

>I find Schoenbaum's argument "that this particular
>edifice alas crumbles upon close inspection" (William Shakespeare:  A
>Compact Documentary Life, p. 114) convincing.

Actually, a key piece of evidence used by Schoenbaum to reach this
conclusion is a 1970 article by Douglas Hamer, which Honigmann
effectively demolishes.  And Schoenbaum, writing in 1975, was not taking
into account the arguments in Honigmann's 1985 book.  In the second
edition of Shakespeare's Lives (1991), Schoenbaum was more amenable to
the idea of a Lancastrian connection, though he remained skeptical.

>What new evidence has been brought forth that Schoebaum has not dealt
>with?

See above, or better yet, get Honigmann's book, which just was reissued
with a new introduction.  Even if you don't end up agreeing with his
arguments (and his arguments about dating the plays, unlike the
Lancashire stuff, has been almost universally rejected), it's a book
worth having.

Dave Kathman

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