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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: August ::
My Name Is Will
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0515  Thursday, 28 August 2008

[1]  From:    Jess Winfield <
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      Date:    Wednesday, 27 Aug 2008 13:11:51 -0700
      Subj:    Re: SHK 19.0507 My Name Is Will

[2]  From:    Nicole M. Coonradt <
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      Date:    Thursday, 28 Aug 2008 17:57:13 +0000
      Subj:    Re: SHK 19.0507 My Name Is Will


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Jess Winfield <
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Date:       Wednesday, 27 Aug 2008 13:11:51 -0700
Subject: 19.0507 My Name Is Will
Comment:    Re: SHK 19.0507 My Name Is Will

 >I thought QE1 adopted a "Don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding
 >religion. A policy formed by her own experience having to embrace
 >Catholicism while fearing the stake at the hands of Bloody Mary who
 >burned hundreds of adults and a few children.
 >
 >Mike Shapiro

Whatever ER's personal experience and level of tolerance, her official policy 
was not nearly as benign as Mike makes it sound. Throughout  the 1580s, the 
Crown was conducting grisly executions of Catholic  priests (Campion, Cottom, et 
al) -- as well as those who secretly harbored them (including Edward Arden, a 
likely relative of Mary Arden Shakespeare). Perhaps one could argue that they 
were executed for political, not religious reasons. But after the Act of 
Supremacy in 1559, and Pope Pius' excommunication of Elizabeth in 1570, politics 
and religion were officially indivisible. To be Catholic was to acknowledge the 
Pope, not Elizabeth, as the head of the church, and that was a state crime. At 
any rate it seems that those who were  hiding priests in holes in the wall were 
trying very hard not to "tell," but were often executed nevertheless. I think 
Elizabeth let herself be guided by her more rabidly Protestant ministers 
(Walsingham especially) in this regard.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Nicole M. Coonradt <
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Date:       Thursday, 28 Aug 2008 17:57:13 +0000
Subject: 19.0507 My Name Is Will
Comment:    Re: SHK 19.0507 My Name Is Will

Dear SHAKSPEReans,

RE: Mike Shapiro's post. I think the take on the Liz/Mary "history" may not be 
up to speed with the 21st-century. Most scholars (including even someone like 
Greenblatt) seem to accept the "revisionist" history now finally being 
revealed/discussed in the academy (though there are still some hold-outs for the 
"Great Myth" -- see Edwin Jones' _The English Nation:  The Great Myth_ [Sutton, 
1998, 2003]). Someone like the fiery William Cobbett (_A History of the 
Protestant Reformation in England and Ireland_ c. 1824-26) who based his history 
on the dreadfully ignored Lingard History was not only dismissed but was 
basically run out of town for his variously "seditious" views (he spent time in 
Newgate Prison, and also fled to both France and then America), though he was 
Protestant. A recent look at the matter that may be most useful is Arthur F. 
Marotti's _Religious Ideology & Cultural Fantasy: Catholic and Anti-Catholic 
Discourses in Early Modern England_ (Notre Dame, 2005). There are a slew of 
others as well, but I especially recommend Marotti's salient study because he 
examines non-canonical texts and is himself not Catholic and so cannot be 
accused of having "an agenda" or ulterior motive. It was, in fact, Marotti's 
friend, James Shapiro, who suggested the study saying, "Arthur, why don't you do 
Catholics?" (Marotti xi).

A peer and I recently discussed the "Bloody" Mary vs. "Good Queen" Bess issue. 
If one looks at a per year count of executions, this does make Mary look like 
the worse of the two half-sisters (by about 38%); however, given that Mary's 
reign was but five years and Elizabeth was queen for a lengthy 45 years this 
severely distorts matters (which is why one must always be wary of statistics). 
Overall, QEI killed, conservatively speaking, 300% more people than her 
half-sister during the course of her long reign. For instance, Tom Betteridge in 
_Literature and Politics in the English Reformation_ (Manchester UP, 2004) notes 
that Elizabeth ordered the execution of 700 rebels after the Northern Rebellion 
in 1570 (178), which was, of course, about the Catholic-Protestant rift. And 
certainly regarding any possible "don't ask don't tell" policy, the Jesuit 
mission was obviously secret and yet at least 124 priests were executed for 
their faith (see Peter Marshall's _Reformation England 1480-1642_, Oxford UP, 
2003), as were many of their recusant Catholic flock for attending or conducting 
secret Masses (see especially Marotti's discussion of Margaret Clitherow and 
Anne Line [48-41]). Note also that these numbers do not take into account those 
who wasted away in prison, died in prison after heinous torture, lost everything 
through fines and confiscations of property, were separated from their families 
and country through exile, and denied education and public office.

Now, let me be clear that this is in no way meant to condone or make light of 
the executions under Mary I, but, rather, to highlight the fact of Christian 
hypocrisy as seen in Christian-on-Christian violence during the Early Modern 
period in England and to avoid any continued white-washing of what occurred 
under Elizabeth's reign where "mercy" did not season "justice."

Best regards,
Nicole

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