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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: March ::
Shakespeare's Personal Faith
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0451  Thursday, 10 March 2005

[1]     From:   Jack Heller <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 9 Mar 2005 09:08:25 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0441 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

[2]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 9 Mar 2005 09:43:09 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0441 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

[3]     From:   Louis W. Thompson <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 9 Mar 2005 11:36:16 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0441 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

[4]     From:   John W. Kennedy <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 09 Mar 2005 14:54:00 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0441 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

[5]     From:   Peter Bridgman <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 9 Mar 2005 22:16:36 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0441 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

[6]     From:   John Briggs <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 9 Mar 2005 22:37:19 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0425 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

[7]     From:   Colin Cox <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 09 Mar 2005 19:18:34 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0425 Shakespeare's Personal Faith


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <
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Date:           Wednesday, 9 Mar 2005 09:08:25 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 16.0441 Shakespeare's Personal Faith
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0441 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

I have no more insight into Shakespeare's personal faith than others who
have already commented. However, I'll take Tony Burton's comment below
to raise one question:

 >The matter of Shakespeare's personal faith has always attracted
 >attention from people who have committed in advance to believe that he
must
 >somehow have professed the faith of their own preference.  Except for a
 >vanishingly small number of non-conformers, the choice has remained
 >between Catholic and Protestant Christian denominations.

What has happened to the Church of England in the list of possibilities?
I am concerned about the lack of attention to Church of England
doctrines and documents in discussions about religion in Shakespeare's
texts.

Jack Heller
Huntington College

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Wednesday, 9 Mar 2005 09:43:09 -0600
Subject: 16.0441 Shakespeare's Personal Faith
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0441 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

I have some points to make on the idea of religious undercurrents in
Shakespeare's plays.

1. There could hardly be no such undercurrents, since religion, faith,
morality and justice are integrally related to each other and to bedrock
qualities of human existence. WS could not be much of a writer and lack
them.

2. Dogma, on the other hand, makes for poor fiction because it lacks
interest -- except, I suppose, to specialists (who want to read theology
anyway) and to fanatics (who only want reassurance of their essential
righteousness).

3. Thus, good fiction will inevitably avoid dogmatics and embrace what
Uncle Harold calls "the human." But this also inevitably generates a
certain ambiguity because we are all, whether on this list or in the
Dramatis Personae, complex and contradictory.

4. Because, in fact, WS is extraordinarily capable of recreating that
complexity (and additionally because, as a result of the widespread
recognition of his supreme artistry, he has been subjected to a
remarkable quantity of analysis), there is a great deal of disagreement
among readers about the precise meaning of a speech, scene, character,
or play. (Or what's a SHAKSPER for?)

5. We can't, therefore, ever deduce his faith from his work with any
hope of accuracy. The greater the work the less susceptible it is to
such deduction.

Cheers,
don

PS: The preceding manifesto does not apply to the same degree to lyric,
especially to what we might call self-psychologizing lyric, but even
there you have to tread very carefully. ("My heart aches, and a drowsy
numbness pains my sense, etc., etc.")

PPS: He isn't really my uncle, but I figure I might as well try to grab
some reflected glory and/or scorn.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Louis W. Thompson <
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Date:           Wednesday, 9 Mar 2005 11:36:16 EST
Subject: 16.0441 Shakespeare's Personal Faith
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0441 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

The message from clerics has always been: Turn yourself over to the
church and we will guide you. Your instructions will come from the pulpit.

Shakespeare's characters tend to search for themselves.

Louis W. Thompson

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John W. Kennedy <
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Date:           Wednesday, 09 Mar 2005 14:54:00 -0500
Subject: 16.0441 Shakespeare's Personal Faith
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0441 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

Larry Weiss <
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 >

  >Can we draw any inference from the near absence of religious

 >anachronisms and WS's treatment of pagan divinities in the pagan era
 >plays as having at least as much reality as the Christian God in the
 >Christian era plays?  Diana, Jupiter and Apollo are very real in
 >Pericles, Cymbeline and Winter's Tale.

Only to conclude that he was not a Puritan fanatic, which we know from
his profession alone. Even by Chaucer's time the Olympians, having died
to godhead, had been resurrected to their new literary life.

(Consider how, in our own time, Tolkien, a pious Roman Catholic, had no
problem creating an entire pantheon for artistic purposes.)

Graham Bradshaw <
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 >What's all this about "personal faith"? Is there impersonal faith?

Indeed there is, as any study of modern politics makes crystal clear.
But that is neither here nor there, for "personal" has more opposites
than "impersonal".

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Bridgman <
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Date:           Wednesday, 9 Mar 2005 22:16:36 -0000
Subject: 16.0441 Shakespeare's Personal Faith
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0441 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

Don Bloom writes ...

 >My own impression is rather different: that the intense anti-clericalism
 >of much of the English population (that is, their antagonism toward the
 >perceived wealth, power, arrogance, and laziness of the clergy, both
 >secular and regular) made them extremely receptive to Protestant ideas
 >from the time of the Henrician Reformation (1534).

I suggest Don Bloom reads Eamon Duffy's 'The Stripping of the Altars:
Traditional Religion in England 1400-1580' (Yale, 1992).  In examining
what actually happened during the Reformation, Prof Duffy has gone back
to the local sources:  the thousands of parish records and churchwardens
accounts that still exist.  They tell a surprising story, very different
from the one we were taught at school:  that outside London and the
towns in Kent, Essex and Suffolk, the parishes of England had to be
dragged kicking and screaming into the Reformation.  The Henrician and
Edwardian reforms took statute after statute, visitation after
visitation, threat after threat, before the vast majority of English
parishes dismantled their precious altars and roodscreens or removed
their holy pictures, statues and vestments.  It is telling that when
Mary came to the throne the empty whitewashed churches were instantly
re-decorated with religious images up and down the country without a
single law or statute having to be passed.  The churchwardens accounts
tell us which pig farmer kept the rood statues safe, which miller looked
after the cope and vestments, which old widow hid the altar-stone.
Duffy's book is highly recommended.  It will probably re-order your
thinking.

Peter Bridgman

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Briggs <
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Date:           Wednesday, 9 Mar 2005 22:37:19 -0000
Subject: 16.0425 Shakespeare's Personal Faith
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0425 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

Peter Bridgman wrote:

 >(there is no British pre-reformation art in the National Gallery)

I suppose it depends how "British" you consider the Wilton Diptych to be?

John Briggs

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Colin Cox <
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Date:           Wednesday, 09 Mar 2005 19:18:34 -0800
Subject: 16.0425 Shakespeare's Personal Faith
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0425 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

 >What do members of this List think about Shakespeare's personal faith as
 >can be gathered from the little that is known about him as a person and
 >what can be inferred from his writings.

To open up a huge can of worms, and I already feel Marc Anthony's
infamous cry of outrage being thrust upon me, I conjecture there is
plenty of evidence for Shakespeare's personal faith (oh boy did I really
say that?).  Hamlet seems to be a great example of the struggle
Catholics faced in an Elizabethan world and a deeply personal struggle
within Will.

OK, I'm going to run and duck now.

Colin Cox

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