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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: March ::
Re: Shakespeare and Catholicism III
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0845  Wednesday, 20 March 2002

[1]     From:   Jack Heller <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Mar 2002 15:17:24 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0831 Re: Shakespeare and Catholicism

[2]     From:   Takashi Kozuka <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Mar 2002 21:18:09 +0000 (GMT)
        Subj:   Re: Shakespeare and Catholicism

[3]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Mar 2002 18:21:00 -0500
        Subj:   Re: 13.0818 Re: Shakespeare and Catholicism

[4]     From:   John Mahon <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Mar 2002 19:32:17 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 13.0831 Re: Shakespeare and Catholicism

[5]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Mar 2002 21:04:07 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0831 Re: Shakespeare and Catholicism

[6]     From:   John Velz <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Mar 2002 22:20:31 -0600
        Subj:   13.0818 Shakespeare and Catholicism



[1]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <
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Date:           Tuesday, 19 Mar 2002 15:17:24 -0500
Subject: 13.0831 Re: Shakespeare and Catholicism
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0831 Re: Shakespeare and Catholicism

Fair and interesting questions have been asked of me which I fully
intend to consider. I request the indulgence of a few days while I try
to evaluate my students' essays before they leave for their spring
break. Please don't interpret silences as evasion.

Thanks,
Jack Heller

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Takashi Kozuka <
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Date:           Tuesday, 19 Mar 2002 21:18:09 +0000 (GMT)
Subject:        Re: Shakespeare and Catholicism

No sweat, Bill! I know your posting was a "summary of some biographical
studies in the past", as I said at the very beginning of my posting :-)

Is the "Shakespeare and Religion" listserv still up and running? I know
that the "website" is still up, but I have vague memory that the
"listserv" is no longer running. Is Dennis Taylor on SHAKSPER?

Best wishes,
Takashi Kozuka

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Tuesday, 19 Mar 2002 18:21:00 -0500
Subject:        Re: 13.0818 Re: Shakespeare and Catholicism

Jack

>Is this to say that if Shakespeare had a particular belief in, say,
>transubstantiation, he would have laid it aside for the money? I'm not
>sure the market was quite so supreme in determining Shakespeare's
>creative choices. Furthermore, this begs the question: What did sell for
>the most money? There were Protestant dramatists contemporary to
>Shakespeare--Dekker, Middleton, Webster. The biggest money-maker of the
>Jacobean era was A Game at Chess, and it quite conforms to the religious
>ideology of Middleton's other dramatic and non-dramatic works.

I didn't say he did so. Only that turning to the genre of romance at
this time can not be taken as a clue regarding his personal convictions
as it followed the current trend in drama while any apparently Catholic
sentiments also reflected those of his new patron.  If either bucked the
trend, they would be evidence of an authorial agenda. As such, no
inference either way can be drawn from them alone. Trends can be
followed more or less enthusiastically. I agree that the question
remains about what and why particular trends became current at
particular times.

>For this question, is the focus on Rome or on theology? Speakers for
>Rome don't fare well in the history plays, but, perhaps, that could be
>attributed to nationalistic sentiments. On the other hand, the
>repentances and conversions of such characters as Valentine (TGV),
>Berowne (LLL), Duke Frederick and Jacques (AYLI), and Claudio (Much Ado)
>seem structured more by a Catholic theological perspective than a Tudor
>and Stuart Protestant one.

The official theology was characterized from the beginning of
Elizabeth's reign by a middle way that avoided defining dogma beyond the
rules of ritual. Interpretation of theology was left open enough to
accommodate the entire range of perspectives from Puritan to Catholic
(outside of one or two specific issues like purgatory). This was a
tactic designed to minimize discontent, and it left it to public
discourse to contend over and work out the ideology of the new state
religion.

>Maybe, but equally, maybe not. Two questions: (1) What were the
>audience's sentiments? (2) If an audience were to agree with an
>ideological discourse, could we conclude its presenter was sincere? I
>conclude McCarthyism is bad.  When I read The Crucible, I conclude the
>play was to show that McCarthyism is bad. I don't conclude that Miller
>was simply pandering.

In the first place, there is a difference between marketing literary
works directly to a public audience and marketing them through a system
of aristocratic patronage. Miller unlike Shakespeare did not wear a
uniform and receive federal subsidies.

1)Shakespeare had several audiences with several conflicting sentiments
2) no. if one audience's bad reviews amount to going broke and the
other's to having your ears cut off, conforming to their tastes tells us
nothing about your sincerity.

>We should note that some of the Protestant propaganda were other plays,
>including one that was likely to be a source for Shakespeare's play, the
>anonymous Troublesome Raigne of King John. Is there any evidence to show
>which play was more financially profitable in the 1590s?

1) My suggestion that no more than profit motive is necessary to explain
Catholic leaning romances around 1610 is not tantamount to a claim that
this is their motivation. 2) Shakespeare's artistic motivations in 1610
are not necessarily his motivations in 1590. 3) profitability depends on
both
state/aristocratic patronage and public popularity. The former is
necessary before publication can make the latter even possible.

>If the Church does not fare well in Shakespeare's play, it certainly
>fares better than in most other contemporary versions of King John's
>story. As John becomes Shakespeare's villain, he replaces the Church as
>the villain.  And King John is one play in which it's very easy to see
>some of Shakespeare's deliberate artistic choices. In Shakespeare's
>play, why is John's poisoning by a monk reported rather than presented?

>Bastard: How did he take it? Who did taste to him?
>Hubert: A monk, I tell you, a resolved villain . . .

The first words out of the papal legate's mouth demand submission to
Rome's nomination for AB of Canterbury. Whatever the religious
convictions of the audience, this emphasis on the political rather than
the spiritual can not have been chosen to garner sentiment for Roman
hegemony. And neither can the extended elaboration of the Church's
position regarding the fate of Arthur:

No, no: when Fortune meanes to men most good,
Shee lookes vpon them with a threatning eye:
'Tis strange to thinke how much King Iohn hath lost
In this which he accounts so clearely wonne:
Are not you grieu'd that Arthur is his prisoner?
  Dol. As heartily as he is glad he hath him.
  Pan. Your minde is all as youthfull as your blood.   [1510]
Now heare me speake with a propheticke spirit:
...That Iohn may stand, then Arthur needs must fall,
So be it, for it cannot be but so.
  Dol. But what shall I gaine by yong Arthurs fall?
  Pan. You, in the right of Lady Blanch your wife,
May then make all the claime that Arthur did.

Granted, Pandulphus here acknowledges Arthur's murder as grim
inevitability, but he expresses no regret, makes no statement about the
evils of bad kings and God's revenge on their saintly victims. He is
purely a tactical politician who recognizes opportunity to further Roman
interests when it knocks.

[Snip]

>This could
>just as well be a comment on the practices of the contemporary Anglican
>Church as of the historical Catholic, and neither need have anything to
>do with the author's religious convictions.

This was my main point. If you accept the view of Irving Ribner, Lily
Campbell et al that history plays were written in part to comment on
current political issues then criticisms of the current state religion
can be made by criticizing the state religion of the historic period
portrayed. Negative portrayals of historic Catholics can be made by
atheists as well as Anglicans. Even assuming they are sincere,
particular examples of pro or anti Catholic sentiments do not
programmatically identify the author's personal positioning within a
simple dialectic and there is no way to determine to what degree they
are sincere.

Clifford

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Mahon <
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Date:           Tuesday, 19 Mar 2002 19:32:17 -0500
Subject: 13.0831 Re: Shakespeare and Catholicism
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.0831 Re: Shakespeare and Catholicism

Dear SHAKSPEREANS,

>David Lindley writes:
>
>I would be interested to know what is the evidence that people wish to adduce to support the claim >that Shakespeare's representation of confession and penitence are accurately to be described as >Catholic, rather than Anglican.  It's been asserted a few times, but, unless I've missed it (which is >quite possible), I've not seen it nailed down.  As far as I am aware there is considerable shared >ground - the differences are, as far as I am aware from reading Hooker some time ago, much less >to do with the theology of confession and repentance than with its external form, with its >sacramental status, and with the possibility of priestly remission of penalty.

With regard to these comments, several thoughts occur.  If memory
serves, the Anglican settlement rejected penance as a sacrament, and
therefore rejected the notion of confession to a priest and absolution
by the confessor. If Shakespeare represents confession in this way,
therefore, he would seem to be reflecting traditional Catholic practice,
since Anglicans no longer celebrated penance as a sacrament.  My mind is
working slowly at this point of the evening, so I cannot readily summon
up apposite passages, except for the Duke in "Measure," who certainly
offers to hear confession in a Catholic context--indeed, hasn't there
been commentary on the extraordinary temerity of the Duke, pretending to
be a friar, daring to hear someone's confession? Are there other
examples?  Of course, one's mind sees images from Branagh's film of
"Hamlet," where several crucial moments are played in and around a
Catholic confessional--surely Anglicans removed confessionals from the
churches?

Cheers,
John Mahon
Iona College/Shakespeare Newsletter

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Tuesday, 19 Mar 2002 21:04:07 -0500
Subject: 13.0831 Re: Shakespeare and Catholicism
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0831 Re: Shakespeare and Catholicism

>  it is also true that the clerics in the history plays
> are villains (any exceptions?).

Cranmer, of course.  The Bishop of Ely in RIII (feckless, but not a
villain).

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Velz <
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Date:           Tuesday, 19 Mar 2002 22:20:31 -0600
Subject:        13.0818 Shakespeare and Catholicism

Mike Jensen asks about Shakespeare's Biblical reading.  His statement is
slightly ambiguous, so I will accept his invitation to comment.

Sh's references to the Bible in his early works are entirely from the
Bishops' Bible which as a child he heard read in Holy Trinity Church in
liturgical services.  About 1598 (Richmond Noble, Shakespeare's Biblical
Knowledge . . . [1935]) or 1596 (Naseeb Shaheen,  Biblical References in
Shakespeare's Plays (1999), Shakespeare began to use quotations from the
Geneva Bible.  From 1596/8 on, there is a mixture of Bishops' and Geneva
allusions in the plays.  The further Sh. gets into his Geneva phase, the
more wholly the Geneva becomes the dominant source.


Shaheen and I agree that the possible borrowings from the vulgate or
from the Douay Rheims are unconvincing.  But we need not deduce that
Shakespeare was not a Catholic in his sympathies.  We can infer,
however, that Sh. did not read the Catholic Bible at all or not nearly
to the extent that he did the Geneva, which would explain why the former
is virtually absent from the plays.  A man, we might think, would
hesitate to allude specifically to a forbidden book in Shakespeare's
time.


What needs to be affirmed about Elizabethans generally and Shakespeare
in particular is that they/he drew from more than one sect in their/his
spiritual makeup.  In Shakespeare's case, the Calvinist Bible was
essentially the only Bible in portable size and of reasonable price a
person could buy in his time.  He bought and read it attentively though
he had no sympathy with Calvinist doctrine.  He was apparently an
attentive member of the Church of England in his Stratford years.  And
there is an accumulation of indirect evidence that suggests that the
Shakespeares of Stratford were Catholic in their sympathies.  It is a
question not of Either Or but of Both And.

A cheer for eclecticism,
John

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