The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0118  Thursday, 20 January 2005

From:           David Basch <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 19 Jan 2005 12:27:37 -0500
Subject: 16.0106 Greenblatt Discussion Forum
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0106 Greenblatt Discussion Forum

Peter Bridgman questions my use of quotes around "Catholic" when I
referred to Archbishop Borromeo's will ofrmat? I merely repeated what
one scholar wrote about the subject. He pointed out that after the
division between the Catholic and Protestant religions, the doctrinal
differences in many respects were not clear or even formulated and that
what was deemed Catholic as opposed to Protestant was arguable. Such a
will might have served for Protestants.

What did the cover of the will tell? It may have had some written-in
material that explained what the circumstances of the will were and what
it denoted. We cannot know about this since the cover page is missing.
That it is missing leads to speculation that there was a reason why it
was made to disappear.

Peter Bridgman also poo poos the value of having a Catholic/Protestant
will around for a Jew in a Protestant England. If the Borromeo will was
considered passable for Protestants, it could be helpful to a beseiged
Jewish family. On the other hand, in a Catholic England that adopted the
horrors of a Catholic inquisition its usefulness is obvious. It is to be
noted that the issue of how things would end up religiously in England
was not clear for many decades and such a will could have been very
handy for a Jew.

Concerning recusancy, which seems not to be explainable by wishing to
avoid apprehension by law court officials for debt, John in his later
years, getting more zealous as he approached closer to death and to a
heavenly accounting, may have lost patience with sitting through such an
ordeal that mocked his Jewish faith, especially when he found he could
avoid it without danger of being exposed.

I would also comment on the presence in Shakespeare's work of some
doctrinal material that was Catholic, aside from its explanation as part
of the plot, cannot be considered as definitive evidence of his
religious origin.  It could also reflect Judaic thinking. For example,
in the case of purgatory, Catholic and Jewish belief coincides. Jacob
says "I will go down mournful to Sheol-purgatory? -- the grave. Romeo
remarks to Tybalt that Mercutio's soul still hovers about, a view that
Jews subscribe to. Pergatory was deemed necessary as a concept for Jews
since, in contradistinction to the righteous, only within the suffering
of such an existence could the various degrees of evil be sorted and
punished before a soul ascended to heaven, apparently agreed to by

These issues are pertinent if they lead to deeper understanding of the
message of the poet. I have shown that it does indeed offer a new window
for consideration and some profound insights that we ignore to our own

David Basch

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