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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: July ::
Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1333  Wednesday, 28 July 1999.

[1]     From:   David N. Beauregard <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 27 Jul 1999 17:30:57 EDT
        Subj:   Re: Lancaster and Catholicism in Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Richard Burt <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 27 Jul 1999 20:51:21 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1325 Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David N. Beauregard <
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Date:           Tuesday, 27 Jul 1999 17:30:57 EDT
Subject:        Re: Lancaster and Catholicism in Shakespeare

In response to Stuart Hampton-Reeves, I would like to inquire as to what
were the titles and substance of the papers of Peter Milward, Grace
Ioppolo, Philippa Berry, Gary Taylor and Stephen Greenbatt were at the
recent "Lancastrian Shakespeare" conference.

Secondly I must say that I find the argument for Shakespeare's "lost
years" in Lancashire, like all the biographical evidence, not
positivistically convincing, but still very plausible. My own research
into Shakespeare's theology would lend support to the notion. There are
three possible profiles for WS. 1) that he conformed to the "Church of
England," 2) that he was a Roman Catholic, a "church papist" who may
have attended services but did not partake of communion, and 3) that he
was an indifferent secularist. The first profile runs aground on the
evidence of the theology in Prospero's epilogue (see my article in
Renascence 1997), the theology of grace in All's Well (forthcoming
article in Renascence), and the positive portraits of nuns and friars in
Measure for Measure (Protestant dramatists would have portrayed Isabella
and the Duke as vice figures). Furthermore, Shakespeare does not reflect
the theology of the Elizabethan Homilies. The third profile is also
difficult to swallow in light of the theology of the plays, with notions
of sin, providence, penance, and so on. That leaves the second profile,
which accords with the theology in the plays and with the fact that
Shakespeare appears to come from outside the "golden triangle," the area
inside Oxford, Cambridge and London, intellectually as well as
geographically. I wish someone would make a case for an "Anglican"
Shakespeare. The only evidence I can find is the harsh treatment of Joan
of Arc in the Henry VI play, the possibly symbolic communion table in
the Tempest, and a few satiric remarks about nuns and monks.

I would add that the Roman Catholic Lancastrian profile raises lots of
new questions. How was Shakespeare able to put on plays like Measure for
Measure in a Protestant context. But other evidence suggests that
censorship was not all that stringent apart from seditious matter, and
that the audience was probably at least one third Catholic and perhaps
even more so since the Elizabethan Settlement was still settling.

As Honigmann has pointed out, this notion of a Catholic Lancastrian
Shakespeare will probably be greeted with "howls of outrage," and it
apparently has been at the conference. But nonetheless to the
dispassionate observer it appears to be the most plausible profile and
it opens new avenues of opportunity for reinterpretation of the Bard.

Again, I wish someone would give us a summary of the conference.

David N. Beauregard

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Burt <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
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Date:           Tuesday, 27 Jul 1999 20:51:21 -0400
Subject: 10.1325 Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1325 Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy

Yes, there is a book of the conference papers in the making.  It may be
one or it may be two volumes, one on religion, one on performance.
Manchester University Press will publish it or them.  R. Wilson and R.
Dutton will edit.  The conference garnered a lot of press coverage.  Two
pieces came out in the Observer the Sunday before it was held and in
addition to the News Night feature that aired the Thursday of the
conference, BBC radio was there as well as Granda television.  Wilson's
paper on the topic, published in LRB, is on the web site for the
conference.  Ernest Honingman's book Shakespeare the Lost Years is the
centerpiece for the theory that Shakespeare was a Catholic.  Though
Wells dissented on the v piece, in Wilson's corner were Anthony Holden,
the royal biographer, and David Thacker, a director. Gary Taylor and
Stephen Greenblatt also gave appears and appear to be persuaded, though
most everyone thinks that, as Greenblatt put it, there is "no sectarian
answer" to questions raised by Shakespeare's Catholicism.  Many people
seemed to be amazed that there is now an apparent consensus that
Shakespeare's Catholic, quite radical shift from the consensus that he
was not of only a few years back.

 It was an unforgettable conference, not only because a day was spent at
Hoghton Tower.

Another conference is already in the works for two years from now.
 

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