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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: June ::
Re: Bearman, Hoghton, Titchfield
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1561  Tuesday, 25 June 2002

[1]     From:   Jan Pick <
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        Date:   Monday, 24 Jun 2002 18:54:39 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1550 Re: Bearman, Hoghton, Titchfield

[2]     From:   Sophie Masson <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 25 Jun 2002 21:11:44 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1550 Re: Bearman, Hoghton, Titchfield


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jan Pick <
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Date:           Monday, 24 Jun 2002 18:54:39 +0100
Subject: 13.1550 Re: Bearman, Hoghton, Titchfield
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1550 Re: Bearman, Hoghton, Titchfield

Many sons of Catholic families were sent to France or other Catholic
countries.  Quite often, as in the Throckmorton family, one son became
Protestant and took over the family possessions to avoid them being
sequestered.  In the lower orders, such evasions were more difficult.
It was often simpler to outwardly conform, and thus Protestantism became
accepted as the norm as the years passed.  The fanatics, of course, on
both sides, made life uncomfortable for those who just wanted to get on
with their lives as quietly and in as trouble free a manner as possible!

Jan Pick

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sophie Masson <
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Date:           Tuesday, 25 Jun 2002 21:11:44 +1000
Subject: 13.1550 Re: Bearman, Hoghton, Titchfield
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1550 Re: Bearman, Hoghton, Titchfield

The significant point about the fact that people only had to pay
recusancy fines from the age of 16, and that therefore many Catholic
parents sent their children away at that age, is that bureaucracy wasn't
yet so well advanced that people were caught up with easily. In a
neighbourhood where people were known to the town authorities, for
instance, as the Shakespeares obviously were in Stratford, it was easier
to know who was who, and who had turned what age. Sent to another place,
a sixteen year old might elude attention for quite a while, especially
if he was going under a variant of his name. Anyway, that would work for
a while, especially if said child was in a household used to such
matters. It's only an interesting suggestiveness, that's all, but it
helps to build up circumstantial evidence. You're quite right, none of
this, or WS' family connections with the Catholic gentry and great
families of the Midlands does not prove he was Shakeshafte--I doubt we
will ever find any 'smoking gun' in relation to that, but it simply
increases the possibility that he was, at least, a cradle Catholic, and
that from there, one may, cautiously, construct various other
possibilities.

You're quite right, all these points are ambiguous, but given the
suggestiveness of a lot of the evidence--given the fact that we are
dealing a/with a society where kinship, cousinage, was very important,
and where people carried family trees around in their heads; and b/the
Catholic population had become adept at a kind of ambiguous game, it is
very interesting indeed that so much of the circumstantial evidence
around WS and his family quite persuasively builds up to a
crypto-Catholic connection. It also helps to illustrate a kind of
progress in a worldly sort of way as well--for instance, if Shakespeare
was, as the genealogical tables and evidence I've seen seem to indicate,
related to Southampton (distantly, through various kin)as well as
linked, however tenuously, by Catholic sympathies, we have a possibility
that the Earl had more reasons to patronise him than perhaps others,
like Nashe, who tried to get his patronage but did not succeed. It would
also perhaps indicate a certain level of trust. But WS' kinship to these
great families does not mean he was deemed as 'important' by them in any
way, other than as someone who was not quite a stranger. I think of it
in terms of the cousinage thing that still exists to this day--certainly
in my own Southern French background, in many other Southern European
countries, as well as many other parts of the world: in places which I
believe have been qualified by writers such as Francis Fukuyama as 'low
trust', in the sense that family, kin, clan, comes first--strangers are
hard to trust. If you know something of someone--that they're related to
you, even if three times removed or whatever--then it helps to smooth
things. Not what you know, but who you know, perhaps.

This is not to be taken to mean that I think WS was a fervent Catholic
or anything of that sort. He did, however, like anyone else, come out of
a particular kinship, social, historical, political, religious context
and culture/s. It seems to me quite possible to be both a cradle
Catholic and religious in the sense that the Catholicism, while present
in the work in terms of images, ideas, sympathies, unconscious linkage
even perhaps, is not a matter of actual lived, conscious faith for that
person. One might well value that context very highly--might mourn the
loss of the old ways, _and_ take advantage of the new. It is possible to
see Shakespeare both as the culmination of medieval English culture, and
also a representative of Renaissance English culture. I am very
interested in the ways in which today, given the fact that sectarianism
has faded, we can get a perhaps clearer picture of Shakespeare and his
times than was the case in the past.  Or at the least a more
densely-textured, more suggestive, richer picture.  The research I've
been conducting, which has led to my writing my novel, My Brother Will,
is not intended to prove once and for all that WS was a Catholic, but
rather that there are lots of very interesting, suggestive things, which
taken together, can make a rather intriguing picture, in all kinds of
ways--not only religiously, but also familial, social, artistic and
personal. I am very interested in Shakespeare as a human being, which is
why I chose to focus not on the period when he went to London, but in
the more hazy time before.

I think it's important to look at things too in the context of the
times, at the development of a person from that childhood context to
leaving the family and entering the world. There has been so little work
done directly on this--I had to gather together many, many, many bits of
information from all kinds of sources, including folklore, music,
Catholic history, town records, genealogy tables, as well as the plays
themselves, which proved to be full of interesting snippets which could
in a few cases be directly related back to people, events and so on back
in WS' childhood. It's fascinating to me, as a writer myself. And I
think--hope--that it may help to stimulate interest in the human context
of the works, as well as--and this is certainly wishful
thinking!!--helping to squelch some of the uninformed stuff which,
idolising Shakespeare and wishing to debunk him at the same time, tries
to prove he wasn't who he really was!

Sophie Masson
Author site: http://www.northnet.com.au/~smasson

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