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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: November ::
Michael Wood and Some Issues Raised
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2165  Wednesday, 12 November 2003

From:           Katherine Duncan-Jones
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Date:           Tuesday, 11 Nov 2003 18:46:05 -0000
Subject: 14.2141 Michael Wood and Some Issues Raised
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2141 Michael Wood and Some Issues Raised

The suggestion that Shakespeare's contribution to Robert Chester's
'Loues Martyr' (1601), the poem later known as 'The Phoenix and the
Turtle', alludes to the execution of Anne Lyne, was first made by Clara
Longworth, Comtesse de Chambrun, in her book 'My Shakespeare, Rise!'
(1935). It commanded little or no support. I have been astonished to
witness the fresh currency given to it by Finnis and Martin's TLS
article, which has been uncritically endorsed by Michael Wood, among
others. (Incidentally, Clara Longworth's book was not mentioned by
Finnis and Martin). The story of Anne Lyne and Father Barkworth is
extremely moving. However, I cannot believe that it is alluded to in any
way in Shakespeare's lyric. To me, 'Loves Martyr' and its appended
'Poeticall Essayes' appear to have as little connexion to Catholic
martyrdom as the 1599 miscellany 'The Passionate Pilgrim' has to
Catholic traditions of pilgrimage.

First and foremost, Shakespeare's lyric requires to be read in its
original context in 'Loves Martyr'. As a whole, this volume pays tribute
to Robert Chester's patron, Sir John Salusbury of Lleweni in
Denbighshire, North Wales, an Esquire of the Body to Queen Elizabeth,
and a man who was making strong bids for preferment at this time, which
included emphasizing his allegiance to the reformed faith. He and his
children carred a remarkable amount of Tudor blood. His mother,
Catherine of Berain, known also as the Mother of Wales, was Henry VII's
great-grand-daughter. As a harmless white dove immolating himself to the
golden Phoenix, Elizabeth I, Salusbury and his descendants could be
shown to repudiate any possible claim on the throne of England. Not
religious devotion, but political ambition pursued during the strange
closing years of a barren female monarch underpins the mythic
'martyrdom' poetically explored by Chester, Shakespeare, Marston,
Chapman and Jonson.

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