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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: September ::
Re: James and Superstitions
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1823  Tuesday, 3 September 2002

[1]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 28 Aug 2002 23:27:11 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 13.1807 James and Superstitions

[2]     From:   Sophie Masson <
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        Date:   Thursday, 29 Aug 2002 09:00:48 +1000
        Subj:   Shakespeare's Catholicism (or not)

[3]     From:   Steve Roth <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Sep 2002 12:26:13 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1800 Re: James and Superstitions


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Wednesday, 28 Aug 2002 23:27:11 +0100
Subject: James and Superstitions
Comment:        SHK 13.1807 James and Superstitions

"Does it really matter at all whether Shakespeare was a Catholic or not?
(And coincidentally someone rather close to James I was: his wife.)"

In this period, the labels we might want to attach to people are of
little moment. The labels that matter are the ones people attached to
those people they didn't like, for whatever reason: e.g. "Puritan",
"Papist", "Romanist", "Arminian", etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum. As nobody
seems to have attached any of these labels to Shakespeare at any time in
any extant text, it can be safely assumed that he didn't go in for
religious contention.

The breadth of tolerable adiaphora was remarkably wide in this period,
far wider than many appear to think. Most of those who got involved in
religious controversies agreed on essentials, and had other reasons for
accusing others of fundamental disagreement.

So, yes, as far as Shakespeare is concerned, it's not particularly
interesting (Jonson is a different matter, of course). Having said that,
I think the key plays are King John, Henry VIII and esp. Cymbeline
rather than Macbeth, which is just a straightforward Stuart love-fest
whose ambiguities are inherent in the politics themselves, and probably
not Shakespeare's.

Finally, it seems a little perverse to describe Anne of Denmark as
"close" to James: they both seem to have gotten on one another's nerves
pretty much all of the time. And her "[Roman] Catholicism" could do with
a little further scrutiny, too: one only has to look at her circle of
friends to notice that, as I began by saying, the labels we'd like to
attach to these people now were largely meaningless back then.

The interested might want to have a look (for a start) at Francis Rous's
*Testis Veritatis: The Doctrine of King Iames our late Soveraigne of
famous Memory. Of the Church of England. Of the catholicke Church.
Plainely shewed to bee One in the points of Pr

 

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