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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: September ::
Re: Major Clerical Characters
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1912  Wednesday, 18 September 2002

[1]     From:   R. A. Cantrell <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 17 Sep 2002 14:01:58 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1907 Major Clerical Characters

[2]     From:   John W. Kennedy <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 17 Sep 2002 15:41:05 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1907 Major Clerical Characters

[3]     From:   Peter Groves <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 17 Sep 2002 22:09:45 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1907 Major Clerical Characters


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           R. A. Cantrell <
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Date:           Tuesday, 17 Sep 2002 14:01:58 -0500
Subject: 13.1907 Major Clerical Characters
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1907 Major Clerical Characters

>Are there any MAJOR clerical characters in
>Shakespeare? There are minor ones.

Henry VI & VIII have the odd bishop and cardinal. Friar Lawrence is my
favorite clerical curiosity. Does the Church of England have friars? The
Roman Church had been out of England for sixty years or more when
Shakespeare was inkiest. Whence all the friars, Chaucer?

All the best,
R.A. Cantrell
<
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[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John W. Kennedy <
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Date:           Tuesday, 17 Sep 2002 15:41:05 -0400
Subject: 13.1907 Major Clerical Characters
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1907 Major Clerical Characters

There are some political figures who are incidentally clerics.  But, for
the most part, serious treatment of religious subjects was not something
the Master of the Revels cared to see, and the one subject of more or
less religious association with which Shakespeare is most passionately
concerned, the nature of forgiveness, is inextricably bound up with the
very topic that triggered the Reformation.

>There are minor ones. Claudius prays to some sort of god,
>but whether he is invoking the grace of Christianity I don't know.

He is formally doing so -- at least, he compares himself to Cain, and I
think we can securely rule out Judaism and Islam as the reason.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Groves <
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Date:           Tuesday, 17 Sep 2002 22:09:45 +0000
Subject: 13.1907 Major Clerical Characters
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1907 Major Clerical Characters

>From:           Bob Rosen 
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>This question occurred to me: Are there any MAJOR clerical characters in
>Shakespeare?

The Archbishop in HIV? And H5? Cranmer in H8?  The Cardinal in King
John?

>There are minor ones. Claudius

(not, incidentally, a cleric of any kind)

>prays to some sort of god,
>but whether he is invoking the grace of Christianity I don't know.

I don't know what else it could be (you have to remember that the
audience thought Christianity of some sort to be a kind of universal
truth).  I think we're meant to see Claudius as performing two parts of
the Catholic sacrament of penance (confession, contrition) but unable to
do the third (restitution), which reflects ironically on Hamlet's belief
that he (C) is in a state of grace at that moment: "words without deeds
never to heaven go".

>Hamlet makes use of the symbolic cross his sword provides as protection
>against the devil, but is that a mere dramatic effect? His ruling dukes,
>etc. are rather secular fellows. Humanists in keeping with Renaissance.

Humanism was a Christian movement.  But then I'm not persuaded that WS
was particularly humanist -- nor that he was a deeply committed
Christian (as you suggest, the plays are remarkably free of theological
dogma except on a superficial level--jokes about faith, works, grace and
so on)-- Isabella's plea (

 

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