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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: March ::
Shakespeare's Personal Faith
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0460  Friday, 11 March 2005

[1]     From:   John W. Kennedy <
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        Date:   Thursday, 10 Mar 2005 11:37:11 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0451 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

[2]     From:   Frank Whigham <
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        Date:   Thursday, 10 Mar 2005 10:55:34 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0451 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

[3]     From:   Tony Burton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 10 Mar 2005 12:14:11 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0451 Shakespeare's Personal Faith


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John W. Kennedy <
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Date:           Thursday, 10 Mar 2005 11:37:11 -0500
Subject: 16.0451 Shakespeare's Personal Faith
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0451 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

Jack Heller <
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 >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.

For purposes of Elizabethan history, "Protestant" includes the Church of
England. Indeed, absent any qualification, in an Elizabethan context,
"Protestant" /means/ the Church of England.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Frank Whigham <
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Date:           Thursday, 10 Mar 2005 10:55:34 -0600
Subject: 16.0451 Shakespeare's Personal Faith
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0451 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

Peter Bridgman is absolutely right to cite Duffy's brilliant work here,
to whom one should add the work of Christopher Haigh, on extensive
catholic survivalisms. The popular resistance to the focus on sermons
and preaching in favor of the many ritual aspects of traditional
religion is extremely important.

However, there are other factors. John Guy (in *Tudor England*) suggests
that there was something concrete to the idea that respect for the
(Anglicized) clergy fell off after the Elizabethan Settlement. Also, of
course, from 1570, the excommunication bull regnans in excelsis, the
Northern Rising and the Babington and other conspiracies, the uncovering
of the correspondence of Mary, Queen of Scots with agents of Parma, and
then the Armada itself, ideological pressures to equate catholicism and
the Spanish enemy transformed the debate. To this add the greatly
increased financial criminalization of catholic worship, the scary
spectacle of Spanish intervention in the Low Countries, the demographic
dying-off of senior traditionalist clergy by the 1590s, and the growing
efforts of the left-wing Puritan sector, and the 1590s begin to look a
lot more like the school stereotype than the 1550s did -- with, surely,
effects on what questions of belief sounded like in such a field of
conflict. These matters include but substantially exceed any narrow
questions of dogma.

Shakespeare's first 25 years begin with the Council of Trent (which
defined for the first time clearly what the differences were between
Catholic and Protestant) and the "achievement" of the settlement, and
close with the Armada, after which, roughly, he began to write plays.
There's a huge deal of religiously and theologically-inflected action in
there. He had a thicket to think through.

Frank Whigham

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tony Burton <
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Date:           Thursday, 10 Mar 2005 12:14:11 -0500
Subject: 16.0451 Shakespeare's Personal Faith
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0451 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

I confess surprise that Jack Heller thinks my description of the
"Shakespeare's faith" dispute as "the choice has remained between
Catholic and Protestant Christian denominations," I somehow excluded "
the Church of England in the list of possibilities"  Yankee that I am
(well, New York Westsider), I always equated the C of E with the
Episcopalian church in the U.S. which, in turn, I considered a
Protestant denomination.

If I've been wrong all these years, I invite instruction.  I certainly
never meant to isolate and exclude the C of E from the scope of my remarks.

Tony Burton

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