The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1397  Monday 9 August 1999.

From:           Ros King <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Saturday, 7 Aug 1999 03:28:46 EDT
Subject: 10.1374 Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1374 Re: Hoghton Tower Controversy

Since we're plugging articles we have written and since no-one else at
the Lancashire Shakespeare conference (at least in the papers I heard)
addressed the early start/late start controversy despite the fact that
it is central to the 'Hoghton controversy', my 'The Case for the Earlier
Canon' was published in Honigmann's Festschrift (Shakespearean
Continuities, eds Batchelor, Cain, Lamont 1997). Few people believed
Ernst about Hoghton either when he first wrote the The Lost Years. It is
now a twenty million pound project. Maybe the whirligig of time can
raise up the early start.

Let me also reinforce David Evett's point about the complexity of
religious belief in the period and its relation to politics. Cranmer's
homily of obedience says that you must obey the monarch even if he or
she is a tyrant - which is not, of course, an issue with the just
English royal family! This means that you must adopt the monarch's
choice of religion. It was probably the logic of his intellectual
ownership of this pronouncement, penned to establish the moral legality
of the English reformation, that caused him to recant under Mary -six
times. His story is a strange mixture of accommodation to prevailing
political authority and moral conviction that people living in more
comfortable times have found hard to understand. No doubt he felt
genuine anguish at his recantation but maybe it was the certainty that
he would not be pardoned that enabled him to withdraw them on the day of
his death, and famously to hold the hand that wrote them out to the
flames so it would be burnt first. See Diarmaid MacCulloch's book on
Cranmer. He was burnt for heresy, but I don't suppose Mary could ever
have pardoned the man who divorced her mother.

A simplistic Catholic/Protestant division does nothing to help us
understand the turmoils of the period or the subtleties in Shakespeare's
writing. It is also currently unhelpful to human progress - if you
believe, as I do that the reason humans have the capacity to make art is
to assist in human social evolution. If these plays have continuing
human value (as opposed to simply historical curiosity) it is because
the individual characters express a variety of conflicting opinions
about a whole range of political and personal issues. This means that
the plays do not themselves preach - which in turn is why people can
argue about their meaning and why this list can exist!

By the end of the conference I had become really very distressed by the
sectarian atmosphere that seemed to be developing -  this observation
being met with a rather angry remark by a noted priestly writer on
Shakespeare that it is the Protestants that are sectarian. Nice spot of
burning, anyone?

QMW, University of London

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