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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: June ::
Re: Bearman, Hoghton, Titchfield
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1571  Wednesday, 26 June 2002

From:           Takashi Kozuka <
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Date:           Wednesday, 26 Jun 2002 12:59:18 +0100 (BST)
Subject:        Re: Bearman, Hoghton, Titchfield

Sophie Masson writes:

> 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 [...]

If the Shakeshafte was Shakespeare, why didn't his parents send their
son abroad instead of Lancashire?  (Jan is right in that many Catholic
sons were sent abroad.) We don't even know how he got to Houghton's
household, although Lancastrians have some hypotheses.

> 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.

Shakespeare's grandfather's name was never spelt 'Shakeshafte'; it was
Stopes' misreading, as it was clarified more than 30 years ago.
Honigmann (whom I admire), therefore, does not argue that 'Shakeshafte'
was an 'alias'. He suspects that the scribe of Houghton's will happened
to spell 'Shakeshafte' because it was a more common family name in
Lancashire. Honigmann also calls his study 'a detective story', although
I'm not sure if he really means it. (But I can say that he is a very
careful scholar.)

> so much of the circumstantial evidence
> around WS and his family quite persuasively builds
> up to a
> crypto-Catholic connection.

Whether or not it is 'persuasive' is a matter of discussion. Some
(including Lancastrians) may consider it persuasive, but (as I informed
the NYC journalist, Ron Rosenbaum, who is currently writing a biography
of Shakespeare and asked me to arrange a ride from Stratford to
Lancashire for him) others would consider the evidence 'thin' because it
is (as you pointed out) extremely 'circumstantial'. Shakespeare's
certain connections/links with some Lancashiremen may have been
established, but they don't establish the identification of the
Shakeshafte. Katie Duncan-Jones, for example, openly states in her
biography that she is not convinced at all, and she is not the only
one.  But I know that some other people are comfortable with a chain of
hypotheses and 'if's. (In addition, Lancastrians' speculations/theories,
as I also told Ron, vary on several points.) But I'm aware that it is a
matter of one's personal standard and judgment based on it. Some are
more like Schoenbaum, and others are more easy-going.

> I think of it [kinship]
> in terms of the cousinage thing that still exists to
> this day--certainly in my own Southern
> French background [...]

It is often dangerous to bring in the 20th- and 21st-century concepts in
the examination of the early modern society. A good example is Anthony
Holden's Observer article on the portrait of Southampton, which is
heavily based on his 20th- and 21st-century view of sexuality and
genders. I'm not an expert in patronage and kinship in early modern
England, so I should not judge how well your suggestion/comparison may
work in the early modern context. Duncan-Jones (another scholar I
admire) certainly could.

> I think it's important to look at things too in the
> context of the times [...]

That's what I've been doing for my PhD thesis (dissertation), and how I
lead my Shakespeare seminars as my department (research centre) is
historicist based. But these approaches are nothing new; influenced by
Foucault, Geertz, Williams, etc., we've been obsessed by
interdisciplinary studies especially since the 1980s, though we are not
truly interdisciplinary yet. On the both sides of the Pacific Ocean are
many interdisciplinary research centres, not only of the Renaissance but
of Postcolonial studies, war/peace studies, etc. Even undergraduate
courses teach them to some degree.

> There has been so little work
> done directly on this [the context of the time] And
> I think--hope--that it may help to stimulate
> interest in the human context of the works [...]

On the contrary, much work has been done on the 'context'. A biographer
of D. H. Lawrence even claims that a major problem of Shakespeare
biography is what we have is a 'contexual' study of Shakespeare's life,
not a study of his 'personal' life. (Whether or not I agree with him is
another matter, so I will not go further here.) Because it is often done
by non-Shakespeare scholars on the scholarly level, and (as I said
above) we are not truly interdisciplinary yet, it may be difficult to
acknowledge the scholarship unless one digs into scholarly journals and
'monographs' read mostly by scholars, or attends academic conferences.
The study of Catholicism in early modern England, for example, was a
neglected area (say) 50 years ago, but it is no longer so. It has been
overwhelming for a long period, and many historians are still working on
it. I do not deny that more work must be done, and I'm planning to do
some in the Shakespeare Centre if time allows. I don't know how many MSS
you've read in archives, but I'm pleased to hear that you've done a lot
of research.

As I pointed out to Ron (once again), another disturbing point of the
Lancastrian theory is that a couple of Lancastrians are driven by
personal/unscholarly motives. A good example, once again, is Anthony
Holden. One of his three motives is that his first girlfriend was a
Hesketh. I do admire Honigmann because he is always aware of counter
arguments and still leads us into the unknown territories. But again I
would like to emphasise that he is extremely careful.

> [...] this is certainly wishful
> thinking!!--helping to squelch some of the
> uninformed stuff which,
> idolis[es] Shakespeare [...]

I applause your intention, and you could if you dig in the STC, MSS,
etc., as many scholars have been doing.  Although idolisation of the
dramatist was often seen on SHAKSPER in the past, an attempt to
criticise and stop idolising him is nothing new at least among many
scholars. Shortly after it started, it caused a stir on both sides of
the Pacific Ocean. In the UK, for example, some SHAKSPERians were
actively involved in a series of feverish debates in 1990-91. Gary
Taylor (who is always creative) has recently put this attempt in the
following phrase: 'I come to measure Shakespeare, not to praise him,
because I imagine myself as a cultural historian, not a cheerleader'.

As I predicted a long time ago, there has been an counter movement to
Bob's SQ essay even on SHAKSPER (though it's very minor, and nothing new
or significant has been said so far). There is another movement in
Shakespeare studies to secularise/deCatholicise the dramatist, and a
book will be soon published from a well-established publisher. I'm
interested in how Ron would treat the 'lost years'. It will be
interesting to see how these two parties will go/survive/fight in the
future.

Best wishes,
Takashi Kozuka
[I shan't be able to reply until this weekend as I'll be in London from
this afternoon to attend a conference.]

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