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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: July ::
Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1324  Tuesday, 27 July 1999.

[1]     From:   Jack Heller <
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        Date:   Monday, 26 Jul 1999 14:11:28 PDT
        Subj:   Catholic Shakespeare?

[2]     From:   William Kemp <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 27 Jul 1999 08:32:44 -0400
        Subj:   Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <
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Date:           Monday, 26 Jul 1999 14:11:28 PDT
Subject:        Catholic Shakespeare?

While I was working on the Calvinist resonance of repentance and
conversion in Thomas Middleton's comedy, I became interested in the
similar scenes in Shakespeare. I believe repentance and conversion in
Shakespeare have a markedly Catholic inflection, with a greater emphasis
on penance than a reader would ever find in Middleton, Tourneur, Dekker,
and some others. I would direct a reader to the following scenes, all
with line numbers from Bevington's edition:

Two Gentlemen of Verona, V.iv.73-83.

Love's Labour's Lost, V.ii.846-865.

As You Like It, V.iv.159-184.

Much Ado About Nothing, V.i.266-268.

The Times Literary Supplement issues of December 1997 also deal with
this question and Shakespeare's Hoghton connection. See also Gary
Taylor's "Forms of Opposition: Shakespeare and Middleton," ELR 24
(1994): 283-314. Hope this helps.

Jack Heller

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[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Kemp <
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Date:           Tuesday, 27 Jul 1999 08:32:44 -0400
Subject:        Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy

As the Hoghton Tower conference was winding up, BBC television did a
ten-minute news feature summarizing the theory. Their 'anti' spokesman
was Stanley Wells, who made two useful points: "Shakeshafte" is a poor
pseudonym for 'Shakespeare,' and WS is buried (prominently) in the
Anglican church at Stratford. He also declared that seeing WS as a
recusant in his youth wouldn't substantially change how directors mount
the plays.

My first reaction is to agree with Wells. How does connecting WS
biographically with recusancy substantially change any of the plays? The
appeal of WS as a 'subversive' outsider is obvious, but what are its
interpretive consequences? Will we now see a spate of articles and books
reading Hamlet as a recusant tract?

One impetus for the conference was to establish Hoghton Tower as a
center for Shakespeare studies, and several of the people BBC
interviewed (including the director-designate of the Center) argued that
Lancaster needed an historical peg on which to hang a cultural
attraction. WS's hypothesized recusancy also feels a bit like a peg on
which to hang post-modern desire to see WS as alienated, dissenting,
'radical'-though labeling Catholicism as radical seems semantically odd.

Bill Kemp
 

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