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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: September ::
My Name Is Will
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0552  Saturday, 13 September 2008

[1] From:   John W Kennedy <
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     Date:   Wednesday, 10 Sep 2008 22:08:55 -0400
     Subj:   Re: SHK 19.0543 My Name Is Will

[2] From:   Nicole M. Coonradt <
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     Date:   Thursday, 11 Sep 2008 21:02:49 +0000
     Subj:   Re: SHK 19.0543 My Name Is Will

[3] From:   Robert Projansky <
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     Date:   Saturday, 13 Sep 2008 03:39:00 -0700
     Subj:   Re: SHK 19.0532 My Name Is Will


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       John W Kennedy <
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Date:       Wednesday, 10 Sep 2008 22:08:55 -0400
Subject: 19.0543 My Name Is Will
Comment:    Re: SHK 19.0543 My Name Is Will

Nicole Coonradt <
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 >A quick reply about a technical point. How could there be a
 >"don't  ask don't tell policy"? Didn't the laws and making
 >Englishmen, and specifically recusant Catholics, take the oath(s)
 >do just that very thing? That is, very specifically asked them
 >to reveal their faith -- or renounce it?

In practice, Elizabeth in her early years did not put much effort into hunting 
out RCs, and when someone happened to be caught at a mass, generally 
administered only slaps on the wrist. However, when a new pope declared that she 
was not a legitimate queen and actually called for her assassination, offering a 
free absolution in advance to any RC who did the deed (perhaps he should have 
read Canto XXVII of the "Inferno"), she had little choice but to regard anyone 
still adhering to Rome as an ipso-facto traitor. (Some RC nobility, disgusted 
with the business, converted.)

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Nicole M. Coonradt <
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Date:       Thursday, 11 Sep 2008 21:02:49 +0000
Subject: 19.0543 My Name Is Will
Comment:    Re: SHK 19.0543 My Name Is Will

To reply to these in turn . . .

RE Mr. Weiss:

Firstly, we might note that the thread began with an announcement/review of Jess 
Winfield's book, _My Name is Will_, hence the thread's title. Some uncharitable 
comments by an early poster carried us to the current tangents.

Campion had no choice but to sneak into the country and hide his identity. "A 
bit late for a new trial"? With whom, what does that mean? Should postmodern 
readers not decide anything for themselves? Are we all out of a job? What about 
most historians? What should we think about all those convicted of witchcraft 
under various monarchs along the way -- do you mean that four centuries later, 
it's also for them "a bit late for a new trail"? Are we simply to accept such 
verdicts throughout time? I think we need to make sense of these events and it 
is our responsibility to weigh-in on them. There is competing information on 
Campion and not everyone accepts Elizabeth's assessment of the matter.

What about Essex? I assume you refer to his famously-failed rebellion? And was 
this not also about religion? Who were his supporters? Marotti, as noted, makes 
the case that religion and politics were inextricably linked. They cannot be 
separated. Unfortunately, there is no nice division as we might wish.

About Catholics: sadly, it is a fact that people were executed for their faith 
(as were Protestants under Mary) -- for attending or housing secret masses, 
harboring priests, and having other Catholic sympathies. Calling such activities 
treasonous does not change matters. Both Ann Line and Margaret Clitherow's 
stories make chilling reading. I would again recommend Marotti. And Shakespeare 
is savvy to much of this and references crop-up all over his work. For example 
consider, "O, I am pressed to death [like Clitherow] for want of speaking!"  See 
also Finnis and Martin's TLS article, "Another Turn for the Turtle" on the Ann 
and Roger Line link in "Phoenix and the Turtle." Consider all the references to 
torture, treason, exile, etc. in the plays. Do we imagine the Bard is not 
commenting on his own times? Is this all meaningless? Irrelevant?

RE Mr. Bloom:

I am sorry that Mr. Bloom thinks my statement about the *fact* of prejudice is 
"vituperative" -- had I noted that calling blacks the "N" word is inherently 
bitter and negative, especially coming from a source of bigotry where the goal 
is to be pejorative, I wonder if there would be a similar reaction. While I am 
not Catholic, I do know for a fact that "papist" is not a compliment to 
Catholics and those who use is do not mean for it to be. (Peter Milward neatly 
appropriates the term, however, for his book _Shakespeare the Papist_.)  Perhaps 
ironically, Mr. Bloom's comments prove equally colored and his language equally 
loaded. What with "puzzling," "troubling," "too many problems to sort them out," 
"[ir]relavant," "distracting," etc. Members have recently and in past posts 
commented on threads that turn ugly and uncivil.

To clarify quickly then:  The Oath made the subject acknowledge the monarch as 
both spiritual and temporal leader. If one refused to accept the monarch as 
one's spiritual head-- and NOT the Pope-- by law this was treason. That was 
Winfield's point and my own comment was in support of this. Under Mary, the 
Protestants were burned for heresy, not treason. Under the Protestant monarchs 
in Reformation England, the big conviction was treason to deal with dissenters. 
Is this merely a semantic distinction?

Where do we find proof that everyone in EM times thought the tortures and 
executions were "appropriate to the offense?" Certainly those who suffered such 
disagreed with it as did many observers. I'm pretty sure that Robert Southwell 
took issue with what happened to him. I'm guessing that Clitherow minded very 
much being crushed to death for hosting a secret mass in her home and hardly 
thought it "appropriate." Surely no one can believe that people who attended 
those masses agreed that such punishment was appropriate. Did those in exile or 
those who lost all their property think it appropriate? There are myriad other 
examples. There is often an argument about how brutal the culture was-- these 
were people who enjoyed "sports" like Bear Baiting after all. (Our own popular 
culture enjoys similarly violent entertainments, but ours are supposed to be 
less harmful because they are virtual and not real.)  In light of what I 
maintain was unspeakable and heinous, should we wonder why the US Constitution 
forbids "Cruel and unusual punishment" or includes other such legal and human 
rights safeguards not long after this (not that laws are always upheld)?  Does 
the "pound of flesh" demand in MV come to mind as a comment on any of this? We 
know Shylock felt that was "appropriate to the offense," but should we assume 
Shakespeare did?

I'd rather jump to Mr. Shapiro's comment about life being cheap and then his 
pondering  the safety of the pen. If life on earth were cheap and short-lived, 
wouldn't that make what happened to ones' soul for eternity all the more 
important? Not that for certain people it would differ any or much today, but  I 
think for some now it may be hard to understand that dilemma in what is often a 
very secular existence -- Marotti's recent work on _Catholic and Anti-Catholic 
Discourses_ makes this point in the introduction (see previous posts in this 
thread). Eamon Duffy's work helps shed light on this historically. These people 
whose lives were organized around their faith were forced into apostasy to avoid 
charges of either heresy or treason, many repeatedly:  from HVIII, to Edward, to 
Mary, to Liz, to James, etc. (Note I include Mary -- again not to diminish what 
occurred during her reign, the stance I've maintained in previous posts.)  This 
was huge and no simple matter. Religion was central to these people's lives. 
Furthermore, anyone who took issue with problems at any point could not just 
speak freely or protest. Not only was there severe censorship that made art 
dangerous -- including substantial risk in writing-- but the crown controlled 
the paper mills. There were secret presses (Catholic), but generally, no free 
speech existed, and certainly not in the ways in which we enjoy it today. How 
would an artist, then, even begin to address problems? There are plenty of 
scholars who believe evidence exists to support the idea of dissidence (see 
Milward, Asquith, Ian Wilson, Beauregard, Klause, Taylor, Honigmann, etc.) -- 
that is, those who conducted subversive criticism in their art. Besides a 
possible candidate like the Bard, another example, as noted by David Skinner, is 
recusant composer William Byrd who communicated in cipher in his compositions 
(with a friend at Spanish court) and continued to write Catholic music in 
England during the EM period.

Artists sensitive to these issues that plagued their society were not silent on 
them. While we cannot prove that someone like Shakespeare was a recusant 
Catholic, his work provides evidence of being sympathetic to the Catholic 
plight. I think he definitely believed, as I noted before, that "mercy" did not 
"season justice" and there was a problem with faith as he saw it practiced. 
Shakespeare was biblically informed (there is yet some debate about which 
version he knew best [see Marotti's recent review of David Beauregard's 
_Catholic Theology in Shakespeare's Plays_ (Newark:  U of Delaware P, 2008) in 
_Renaissance Quarterly_ 61.3 (2008): 1037-9]) and had a good sense of when 
people were behaving badly or not:  as Christians. Importantly, on one level, 
his work seems to make a plea for toleration. Such a message holds particular 
relevance today.

I look forward to reading Winfield's book.

Respectfully,
Nicole

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Robert Projansky <
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Date:       Saturday, 13 Sep 2008 03:39:00 -0700
Subject: 19.0532 My Name Is Will
Comment:    Re: SHK 19.0532 My Name Is Will

I have no special knowledge of the unfortunate Father Campion and certainly none 
re Protestant v Catholic in Elizabethan England, but I do know that looking to 
the outcomes of judicial proceedings to find an accurate history of What Really 
Happened and Who Actually Did What to Whom is an exercise in self-delusion, both 
for then and now.

Best to all,
Bob Projansky

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