The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0561  Thursday, 18 September 2008

From:       Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:       Sunday, 14 Sep 2008 03:27:37 -0400
Subject: 19.0552 My Name Is Will
Comment:    Re: SHK 19.0552 My Name Is Will

 >"A bit late for a new trial"? With whom, what does that mean?
 >Should postmodern readers not decide anything for themselves?
 >Are we all out of a job? What about most historians? What should
 >we think about all those convicted of witchcraft under various
 >monarchs along the way -- do you mean that four centuries later,
 >it's also for them "a bit late for a new trail"?

This could be another example of inability to draw distinctions, which I 
commented on briefly in response to another post today. There is a world of 
difference between revisiting a conviction for a crime that is not or should not 
be criminal, such as witchcraft or heresy, and attempting to re-evaluate whether 
a verdict convicting a defendant of a real crime was correct as a matter of 
fact. For example, the Church should have reversed Galileo Galilei's conviction 
long before it did. But the facts on which Edmund Campion was convicted are far 
too obscure and uncertain after more than four centuries to enable any 
reasonable re-evaluation. The contentions made by his supporters are, for the 
most part, based on what they perceive to be cultural biases in Elizabethan 
England, rather than a cold examination of the evidence; and, on a close look, 
we find that Campion's supporters are impelled by their own biases. Isn't it 
enough that he was canonized, does he have to be acquitted too?

The risks of insisting that long past judicial results were wrong because they 
are perceived to have been politically inspired is illustrated by the nearly 
half century of campaigning by some elements for resurrection of the reputations 
of Julius Rosenberg and Alger Hiss, on the supposed grounds that they were 
railroaded by use of perjury and other tainted evidence. When the KGB files were 
opened we found that they were unquestionably Soviet agents. Indeed, this week's 
news contains Morton Sobel's confession that he was a Soviet  spy, after decades 
of protesting his innocence, and his acknowledgment that Julius Rosenberg was as 
well and that Ethel at least assisted his efforts.

 >About Catholics: sadly, it is a fact that people were executed for
 >their faith (as were Protestants under Mary) -- for attending or
 >housing secret masses, harboring priests, and having other
 >Catholic sympathies. Calling such activities treasonous does
 >not change matters.

I agree with that, but once again I feel compelled to remind everyone that 
Campion was not executed for celebrating secret masses or for treason in doing 
so (I don't think secret masses were considered treasonous). He was convicted 
and executed for plotting to kill the queen. So was Essex; and saying that Essex 
(a conforming Anglican) had some Catholic supporters does not convert his 
conviction into a one for heresy.

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