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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: March ::
Shakespeare's Personal Faith
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0525  Monday, 21 March 2005

[1]     From:   John W. Kennedy <
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        Date:   Friday, 18 Mar 2005 15:16:39 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0510 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

[2]     From:   David Basch <
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        Date:   Friday, 18 Mar 2005 15:17:11 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0488 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

[3]     From:   Edward Brown <
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        Date:   Friday, 18 Mar 2005 17:19:24 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0510 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

[4]     From:   Peter Bridgman <
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        Date:   Saturday, 19 Mar 2005 14:15:59 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0472 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

[5]     From:   Peter Bridgman <
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        Date:   Saturday, 19 Mar 2005 15:41:18 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0510 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

[6]     From:   Tad Davis <
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        Date:   Sunday, 20 Mar 2005 22:15:18 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0488 Shakespeare's Personal Faith


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John W. Kennedy <
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Date:           Friday, 18 Mar 2005 15:16:39 -0500
Subject: 16.0510 Shakespeare's Personal Faith
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0510 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

Terence Hawkes <
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 >The idea that you can dredge up an author's 'personal faith' by means of
 >a close analysis of his or her writings derives from a number of sloppy
 >post-Romantic presuppositions. Suffice it to say that you can't. The
 >really interesting question is why any of us should collude in the
 >reduction of art to the level of mere individual belief. Our pop stars
 >will do that for us.

You go too far. It depends on the author (and the writings). In /some/
cases, it's quite easy.

Richard Kennedy <
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 >

 >There's that hearsay, rumor, or what have you that Shakespeare spent at
 >a thousand pounds a year, or received such, I don't think it's clear.
 >Something also about playing the ghost of Hamlet. If one can believe
 >that there is often something deeper than the paint of Elizabethan
 >prose, take 'word' to stand for 'name', and surmise. "I'll take the
 >ghost's word for a thousand pound."

<SIGH/>Cousin Dickie is perfectly aware that his anti-Shakespearean
bushwah is off-limits.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Basch <
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Date:           Friday, 18 Mar 2005 15:17:11 -0500
Subject: 16.0488 Shakespeare's Personal Faith
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0488 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

Larry Weiss is under the impression that just because many of
Shakespeare's plays show him reworking older literary material this
somehow precludes his imbuing the newly assembled dramatic products with
his own visionary perspective. In fact, this tendency is strongly in
evidence throughout the poet's career.

For example, King Lear is indeed, as Larry says, derived from old tales,
"Holinshead and Leir." But that is why everyone was so surprised when
Lear dies at the end of Shakespeare's version since this did not occur
in the others. Obviously Shakespeare was molding this play into
something that said what was in his heart.  The same thing happens in
Hamlet, which does not preclude, as Larry writes, its emergence from "a
chain of predecessor works from Saxo through Belleforest to the
ur-Hamlet." And of course this happens too in The Merchant of Venice in
the combining of a few earlier literary models.

In this reworking, something new is added to the material from
Shakespeare's genius that in the new form brings forth intensified
feelings, emotions, philosophical, and religious perspectives that were
either absent from the earlier work or immeasurably strengthened in
those aspects that had already shared in Shakespeare's authorial vision.

Larry is right, of course, when he argues that a few things that
correspond to the human condition that happen to end up in Hamlet do not
prove that the play is a staging of the Book of Ecclesiastes. However,
the fact is that there are a great many such things, not just a few,
that tells of this direct inspiration.

Take the incident of Hamlet teasing Polonious, pointing to the sky and
saying, "Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in shape of a camel?"
While this forwards the action of the play, showing Hamlet indulging in
"foolishness," it brings a second message from Ecclesiastes 11:4 that
tells, "he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap." Since Hamlet does
not "reap" at the end of the play, (he doesn't get his throne,) the
cloud incident actually foreshadows the ending of the play, even as it
stamps the play with the vision of Ecclesiastes. There is much of such
things in Hamlet and in King Lear. Such things are not just generic
observations of life, but are things that have a particularistic
dressing about them showing from where specifically they were bred.

Concerning spirituality, take Sonnet 31 in which he tells that his dead
friends are alive in the bosom of his Friend, the Lord.  His knowing
that ends up increasing his dedication to the Lord.  How more spiritual
can you get? Of course, most scholars insist that the poet dedicated
himself, body and soul, to some self-centered young man so you lose the
impact this great poem has for giving consolation to those who have lost
dear ones.

But if there is any doubt as to Whom Shakespeare directs his praise and
love, he once again spells out His name in the first set of letters that
begin lines 2 and 3 and which transliterate the Tetragrammaton as
yh-W-h. The original printing makes this even more evident since the
letters "hy" (Thy) both sit above the wide letter "W" of "Which" below.

Additional transliterations of the name occur in the words, "I view,"
which, since the "I" is also the Elizabethan letter "J" becomes JaVIEW,"
and in the ascending string that occurs in lines 14 to 12 in the words
"theY," loUe, and "noW," a set of whose stacked letters read "Y-U-W" or
"Y-V-W" (YaVaW) since the letter "U" is here a "V."

                       31
        ___
[1]     |    hy bosome is indeared with all hearts,
[2]     |    Which I by lacking haue supposed dead,
[3]     And there raignes Loue and all Loues louing parts,
[4]     And all those friends which I thought buried.
[5]     How many a holy and obsequious teare
[6]     Hath deare religious loue stolne from mine eye,
[7]     As interest of the dead,which now appeare,
[8]     But things remou'd that hidden in there lie.
       -----------------------------------------------------
[9]     Thou art the graue where buried loue doth liue,
[10]    Hung with the tropheis of my louers gon,
[11]    Who all their parts of me to thee did giue,
[12]    That due of  many,now is thine alone.
[13]       Their images I lou'd, I view in thee,
[14]       And  thou(all they)hast all the all of me.

Larry concludes his comment by putting words in my mouth as a parody of
my views. To set the4 record straight, I do not, as Larry alleges,
regard Jews as "the most insightful people." (Their history as a people
shows that this is not so.) Nor does the Lord in the Bible call for Jews
"to dominate all else," just to live a pious life in their own land and
to set a good example to others, which they sometimes do. Anyway, these
good ways have been sufficient to have encouraged the English and others
to pattern their ways on the ways and spirituality of the ancient Jews.
But the latter attainments are not what would make a Jew of Shakespeare.
That is done by the abundant telltale signs the poet deliberately left
to be read by future generations, some of which I have brought forward.
However, such a conclusion ought to be arrived at by a careful study of
the evidence, not the unscholarly putting of heads in sand.

The point of getting at the truth of this is not for the purpose of
getting some cheap ethnic ego trip but to clarify the meaning and
message of the poet's work and to shed light on what fed his
inspiration, something the world can be enriched and benefitted from.
The failure to mine this wealth of insight and wisdom would be a loss
and a calamity.

David Basch

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edward Brown <
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Date:           Friday, 18 Mar 2005 17:19:24 -0600
Subject: 16.0510 Shakespeare's Personal Faith
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0510 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

Please, that is ridiculous, 1000 pounds in today's money is more or less
half a million, or $900,000  to $1,000,000 in dollars. If he were
spending such, how is it that he had only the second best bed to give to
his widow. No art treasures, books, no munificence to local charity, no
robes and silk hose for his boys?  Please get real.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Bridgman <
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Date:           Saturday, 19 Mar 2005 14:15:59 -0000
Subject: 16.0472 Shakespeare's Personal Faith
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0472 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

Don Bloom wrote ...

 >PS: I think one easy definition of Protestant in Shakespeare's time
 >would be a holder of beliefs that would get you burned at the stake
 >under a Catholic monarch.

And would the easy definition of 'Puritan' be a "holder of beliefs that
would get you burned at the stake under a Protestant monarch"?  Because
the medieval burning of heretics continued into the reigns of Elizabeth
and James, and the last burnings in England (a couple of Anabaptists)
were in 1612.

Peter Bridgman

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Bridgman <
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Date:           Saturday, 19 Mar 2005 15:41:18 -0000
Subject: 16.0510 Shakespeare's Personal Faith
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0510 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

Hannibal Hamlin wrote ...

 >Duffy virtually ignores the English Bible in his history of
sixteenth-century

(and earlier) English religious practice.  Since it might fairly be said
that the translation of the Bible into English was the single most
important cultural event in sixteenth-century England, this is rather an
oversight!

That doesn't seem quite fair.  Duffy's discussion of Bible-reading among
the laity is both detailed and balanced.  He tells us, for instance,
that a group of poor men from Chelmesford clubbed together in 1538 to
buy a New Testament in English and "on sundays dyd set redinge in [the]
lower ende of the churche, and many wolde flocke about them to heare
theyr redinge".  He also details how this sort of working-class
enthusiasm worried the Henrician authorities.  In 1539 Henry "blamed the
rising tide of 'murmer malice and malignity' among the people in large
part on unfettered Bible-reading".  An Act of 1543 forbade the reading
of scripture altogether for "women, artificers, prentices, journeymen,
serving men of the degrees of yoeman or under, husbandmen or labourers".

Duffy writes of Mary's reign ...

"Though the Bibles as well as Erasmus's paraphrases were collected up
from the churches during the Marian visitations, Bible-reading or the
possession of Bibles was never condemned by the regime.  Protestant
versions of the Bible were suspect, not English Bibles as such.
[Cardinal] Pole ... had a deep sense of the value of scriptural
preaching and expounded the Bible daily to his own household.  A new
English translation of the New Testament was one of the projects agreed
and begun at Pole's legatine synod at the end of 1555".

Peter Bridgman

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tad Davis <
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Date:           Sunday, 20 Mar 2005 22:15:18 -0500
Subject: 16.0488 Shakespeare's Personal Faith
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0488 Shakespeare's Personal Faith

Peter Bridgman writes, "While John and Susanna Shakespeare were
definitely recusant Catholics,
there is no evidence that WS was a recusant too."

I'm generally sympathetic to the notion that John Shakespeare was a
Catholic sympathizer. But we should be clear about what the evidence
actually supports. The evidence of John's recusancy and Susanna's
absence from communion doesn't warrant the conclusion that either was
"definitely" a recusant Catholic.

Tad Davis

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