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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: September ::
My Name Is Will
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0574  Sunday, 28 September 2008

From:       Larry Weiss <
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Date:       Wednesday, 24 Sep 2008 01:29:04 -0400
Subject: 19.0564 My Name Is Will
Comment:    Re: SHK 19.0564 My Name Is Will

 >To celebrate mass, hear confession, or perform any other
 >priestly office in the name of the Roman Catholic church
 >was to affirm the authority of Rome and the illegitimacy
 >of Elizabeth. Campion was by statutory definition thus guilty
 >of treason by all accounts -- and his own affirmation. (And
 >yes, of course, the laws were politically motivated -- the
 >Pope had in effect declared war against Elizabeth by means
 >of the bull, and himself engaged in sedition in inciting her
 >people to disobey her in all things, and these laws were
 >designed to reaffirm her legitimacy and supremacy.)

There are gaps in this syllogism. It does not follow from the Pope's assertion 
of authority to relieve Elizabeth's subjects from their allegiance to her (a 
matter of Roman canonical law) that practicing the rituals of Roman Catholicism 
was treason (governed by English statutory law). In fact, thousands of 
Englishmen and women continued to celebrate mass during ER's reign without being 
hanged, drawn and quartered. Supporting the Pope in his attempt to dethrone the 
queen was treason; serving mass was not such support and was not regarded as 
such (at least in practice). It was possible then, as now, to be a practicing 
Catholic without adhering the the Pope's political agenda. Thousands of loyal 
Englishmen were.

Walsingham's portfolio was state security, not religious orthodoxy. His spies in 
Douai -- including Christopher Marlowe, a notorious atheist -- went there to 
protect the regime, not the church. The national treasury was probably 
insufficient to enforce a sweeping persecution of Catholics, even if some 
hotheads would have preferred a reign of terror, and the risk of civil unrest 
was not worth running.

All this having been said, it seems to me that this thread, having only the most 
tenuous connection with Shakespeare, has probably exceeded its useful life.

[Editor's Note: RIP --HMCook]


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