The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1566  Tuesday, 20 September 2005

From: 		Peter Bridgman <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Monday, 19 Sep 2005 13:57:04 +0100
Subject: 16.1552 Shadowplay
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1552 Shadowplay

 >>But to infer from these references that Shakespeare was a
 >>recusant Catholic and, indeed, a polemicist for the old religion
 >>is to appropriate him in a way which is inappropriate, given the
 >>established facts of his life and a broad view of his canon.
 >I quite agree with Steve Sohmer's opinion. Gerald E. Downs.

I haven't read Claire Asquith's book (though a birdy tells me it might 
be in my Christmas stocking) but from what I've read so far it appears 
that Claire has overstated her case.  If Shakespeare's canon was full of 
secret nods and winks to Catholics, one might ask why was there such 
criticism of his work from these very Catholics.  And in particular from 
a fellow poet who would've been the first to see hidden meanings if they 
were there.  I am thinking of Shakespeare's cousin, the Jesuit poet 
Robert Southwell.

In 1592, after the huge success of Venus and Adonis, Southwell wrote: 
'Still the finest wits are (di)stilling Venus' rose ... playing with 
pagan toys'. The dedication letter to this poetry collection starts: 
'To my worthy good cosen maister W.S'.  Southwell was a huge fan of WS 
(and as 'Burning Babe' was used in Macbeth, we can assume the admiration 
was mutual) but disapproved of his subject matter and urged WS to write 
religious poetry. The letter ends: 'it rests in your will'.

Although several other Protestant poets like Edmund Spencer were deeply 
affected by Southwell's plea (Thomas Lodge said it changed his life's 
direction), it appears that the Catholic WS completely ignored it.

Peter Bridgman

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