Was William Shakespeare A Catholic?

Click here to read a report of the Vatican’s view that William Shakespeare was, very likely, a “crypto-Catholic”

Father Stephen DeLallo, SSPX, presents the opposite case, as set out in the Catholic Encylopaedia – The Religion of William Shakespeare

 

Hamlet Act 1, Scene 2

Hamlet Act 1, Scene 2

 

(1) Arguments against Catholicity taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

 1) His own daughters were baptized in the parish Anglican Church as he himself had been, and were brought up as Protestants, the older daughter, Mrs. Hall, being apparently rather Puritan in her sympathies

 2) In 1608, he stood as godfather to a child of Henry Walker (who was an eminent London musician)

 3) In 1614 he entertained a protestant preacher at his house

 4) He was very familiar with the Bible in a Protestant version

 5) The various legatees and executors of his will cannot be identified as Catholics

 6) He seems to have remained on terms of intimacy with Ben Johnson, despite the latter’s disgraceful apostasy from the Catholic Faith which he had embraced for a time

 7) During his residence in London from 1598 – 1604, he lived at the house of Christopher Mountjoy, a refugee French Huguenot who maintained close relations with the French Protestant Church in London

 8) Even if his sympathies were with the Catholics, he made little or no attempt to live up to any Catholic moral convictions, as is seen in the immorality in many of his writings, and in various historical testimonies about his personal depraved morals

 (2) Complete Article from the Catholic Encyclopedia

 Of both Milton and Shakespeare, it was stated after their deaths, upon Protestant authority, that they had professed Catholicism. In Milton’s case (though the allegation was made and printed in the lifetime of contemporaries, and though it pretended to rest upon the testimony of Judge Christopher Milton, his brother, who did become a Catholic) the statement is certainly untrue (see The Month, Jan., 1909, pp. 1-13 and 92-93).

 This emphasizes the need of caution — the more so that Shakespeare at least had been dead more than seventy years when Archdeacon R. Davies (d. 1708) wrote in his supplementary notes to the biographical collections of the Rev. W. Fulman that the dramatist had a monument at Stratford, adding the words: “He dyed a Papyst”. Davies, an Anglican clergyman, could have had no conceivable motive for misrepresenting the matter in these private notes and as he lived in the neighbouring county of Gloucestershire he may be echoing a local tradition. To this must be added the fact that independent evidence establishes a strong presumption that John Shakespeare, the poet’s father, was or had been a Catholic. His wife Mary Arden, the poet’s mother, undoubtedly belonged to a family that remained conspicuousl yCatholic throughout the reign of Elizabeth. John Shakespeare had held municipal office in Stratford-on-Avon during Mary’s reign at a time when it seems agreed that Protestants were rigorously excluded from such posts. It is also certain that in 1592 JohnShakespeare was presented as a recusant, though classified among those “recusants heretofore presented who were thought to forbear coming to church for fear of process of debt”. Though indications are not lacking that John Shakespeare was in very reduced circumstances, it is also quite possible that his alleged poverty was only assumed to cloak his conscientious scruples.

A document, supposed to have been found about 1750 under the tiles of a house in Stratford which had once been John Shakespeare’s, professes to be the spiritual testament of the said John Shakespeare, and assuming it to be authentic, it would clearly prove him to have been a Catholic. The document, which was at first unhesitatingly accepted as genuine by Malone, is considered by most modern Shakespeare scholars to be a fabrication of J. Jordan who sent it to Malone (Lee, Life of William Shakespeare, London, 1908, p. 302). It is certainly not entirely a forgery (seeThe Month, Nov., 1911), and it produces in part a form of spiritual testament attributed to St. Charles Borromeo. Moreover, there is good evidence that a paper of this kind was really found. Such testaments were undoubtedly common among Catholics in the sixteenth century. Jordan had no particular motive for forging a very long, dreary, and tedious profession of Catholicism, only remotely connected with the poet; and although it has been said that John Shakespeare could not write (Lee, J.W. Gray, and C.C. Stopes maintain the contrary), it is quite conceivable that a priest or some other Catholic friend drafted the document for him, a copy of which was meant to be laid with him in his grave. All this goes to show that the dramatist in his youth must have been brought up in a very Catholic atmosphere, and indeed the history of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators (the Catesbys lived at Bushwood Park in Stratford parish) shows that the neighbourhood was regarded as quite a hotbed of recusancy.

 On the other hand, many serious difficulties stand in the way of believing that William Shakespeare could have been in any sense a staunch adherent of the old religion. To begin with, his own daughters were not only baptized in the parish church as their father had been, but were undoubtedly brought up as Protestants, the elder, Mrs. Hall, being apparently rather Puritan in her sympathies. Again Shakespeare was buried in the chancel of the parish church, though it is admitted that no argument can be deduced from this as to the creed he professed (Lee, op. cit., p. 220). More significant are such facts as that in 1608 he stood godfather to a child of Henry Walker, as shown by the parish register, that in 1614 he entertained a preacher at his house “the New Place”, the expense being apparently borne by the municipality, that he was very familiar with the Bible in a Protestant version, that the various legatees and executors of his will cannot in any way be identified as Catholics, and also that he seems to have remained on terms of undiminished intimacy with Ben Johnson, despite the latter’s exceptionally disgraceful apostasy from the Catholic Faith which he had for a time embraced. To these considerations must now be added the fact recently brought to light by the researches of Dr. Wallace of Nebraska, that Shakespeare during his residence in London lived for at least six years (1598-1604) at the house of Christopher Mountjoy, a refugee French Huguenot, who maintained close relations with the French Protestant Church in London (Harper’s Magazine, March, 1910, pp. 489-510). Taking these facts in connection with the loose morality of the Sonnets, of Venus and Adonis, etc. and of passages in the play, not to speak of sundry vague hints preserved by tradition of the poet’s rather dissolute morals, the conclusion seems certain that, even if Shakespeare’s sympathies were with the Catholics, he made little or no attempt to live up to his convictions. For such a man it is intrinsically possible and even likely that, finding himself face to face with death, he may have profited by the happy incident of the presence of some priest in Stratford to be reconciled with the Church before the end came. Thus Archdeacon Davies’s statement that “he dyed a Papyst” is by no means incredible, but it would obviously be foolish to build too much upon an unverifiable tradition of this kind. The point must remain forever uncertain.

As regards the internal evidence of the plays and poems, no fair appreciation of the arguments advanced by Simpson,Bowden, and others can ignore the strong leaven of Catholic feeling conspicuous in the works as a whole. Detailed discussion would be impossible here. The question is complicated by the doubt whether certain more Protestant passages have any right to be regarded as the authentic work of Shakespeare. For example, there is a general consensus of opinion that the greater part of the fifth act of “Henry VIII” is not his. Similarly, in “King John” any hasty references drawn from the anti-papal tone of certain speeches must be discounted by a comparison between the impression left by the finished play as it came from the hands of the dramatist and the virulent prejudice manifest in the older drama of “The Troublesome Reign of King John”, which Shakespeare transformed. On the other hand, the type of such characters as Friar Lawrence. or of the friar in “Much Ado About Nothing”, of Henry V, of Katherine of Aragon, and of others, as well as the whole ethos of “Measure for Measure”, with numberless casual allusions, all speak eloquently for the Catholic tone of the poet’s. mind (see, for example, the references to purgatory and the last sacraments in “Hamlet”, Act I, sc. 5).

 Neither can any serious arguments to show that Shakespeare. knew nothing of Catholicism be drawn from the fact that in “Romeo and Juliet” he speaks of “evening Mass” Simpson and others have quoted examples of the practice of occasionally saying Mass in the afternoon, one of the places where this was wont to happen being curiously enough Verona itself, the scene of the play. The real difficulty against Simpson’s thesis comes rather from the doubt whether Shakespeare was not infected with the atheism, which, as we know from the testimony of writers as opposite in spirit as Thomas Nashe and Father Persons, was rampant in the more cultured societyof the Elizabethan age. Such a doubting ors keptical attitude of mind, as multitudes of examples provein our own day, is by no means inconsistent with a true appreciation of the beauty of Catholicism, and even apart from this it would surely not be surprising that such a man as Shakespeare should think sympathetically and even tenderly of the creed in which his father and mother had been brought up, a creed to which they probably adhered at least in their hearts. The fact in any case remains that the number of Shakespearean utterances expressive of a fundamental doubt in the Divine economy of the world seems to go beyond the requirements of his dramatic purpose and these are constantly put into the mouths of characters with whom the poet is evidently in sympathy. A conspicuous example is the speech of Prospero in “The Tempest”, probably the latest of the plays, ending with the words:

 “We are such Stuff

 As dreams are made on, and our little life

 Is rounded with a sleep”.

 Whether the true Shakespeare speaks here no one can ever tell, but even if it were so, such moods pass and are not irreconcilable with faith in God when the soul is thrown back upon herself by the near advent of suffering or death. A well-known example is afforded by the case of Littré.  End of Catholic Encyclopaedia article.

Comment:

Historians and other societal “experts” consider that the religious references and beliefs expressed in literature, drama etc. make an important contribution to us in our attempts to understand the past. Many have researched the religion of Shakespeare, therefore, given his standing in the world of English language and literature as a poet, playwright and actor.  But, does it really matter whether or not Shakespeare held to Catholic beliefs, albeit secretly? If, as many argue, it is important to contextualise the religious references in his work, why is it important?  Do these references really tell us much about the history of the Reformation period?  Do  you think that William Shakespeare was a Catholic? If so, what makes you so sure?  

177 responses

  1. I think Fr. DeLallo has called this one well, Shakespeare was no Catholic.

    Nothing in his life or works really suggests that he was a man with the true religion in his heart. Besides that, his daughters were baptised and raised Protestant and he stood Godfather in an Anglican church for his friend’s child. Both of these acts were sufficient for excommunication had he been Catholic. No, it seems the evidence from his life is evidence enough that Shakespeare was not a Catholic.

    This makes a big difference when presenting his work to Catholic children in literary study, lest they become tarnished with ideas expressed in his plays that could impact on faith amd morals. Those who hold Shakespeare to have been Catholic and propose his thinking and writing as such, I am referring to such as Dr. David Allen White, a close ally of Bishop Williamson who fancies himself a modern day “recusant” like those true Catholics of the Elizabethan times of persecution, need to pay particular heed to what they promote. In this regard, it’s interesting that intellectual converts to Catholicsm are more likely to push Shakespeare as a secret Catholic than cradle Catholics are.

    • Athanasius,

      I’m really surprised to read what you say about Dr White, because his tapes on Shakespeare are advertised on an SSPX website
      https://catholicconferences.bandcamp.com/album/shakespeare-and-the-modern-world

      I don’t know what to make of the claims and counter claims about his supposed Catholicism, so I’ll wait to see what others think before I make up my mind on that one, but it’s odd that Dr White’s tapes are sold by the SSPX if he’s a close ally of + Williamson.

      • Michaela

        I agree. I have no idea why the SSPX is selling recordings of Dr. White when he has allied himself with Bishop Williamson. His association with Bishop Williamson, in my estimation, tells me that he’s not so bright after all.

        • I beg your pardon, but I think that you’re being unfair to Dr. White. Simply because he’s an ally of Bishop Williamson doesn’t mean that one should discount his views on Shakespeare. Dr. White has given many lectures on literature at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, Catholic Family News conferences etc. He wouldn’t have taught so long at the US naval academy in Annapolis MD USA if they thought that he wasn’t a good professor of literature.

          • Margaret USA

            No, I am not being unfair I am being prudent. It’s not Dr. White’s academic achievements or abilities I have called into question in this matter, but rather his spiritual discernment, which is an operation of grace, not intellect. I’m sorry if this upsets you.

  2. I’ve always thought Shakespeare was a Catholic. I don’t really know why, I just always thought that.

    I also didn’t know that if a Catholic has children baptised and raised as Protestants that that excommunicates them. What if someone is in a mixed marriage and although makes an effort to raise them as Catholics, their husband/wife insists on raising them Protestants?

    • I’d be surprised if a Catholic in a mixed marriage like you describe was excommunicated if he had to give in to his spouse and let his children be raised as Protestants. It would be different if he was encouraging it, or didn’t care, but if it caused him heartache, and he was just trying to keep his family together, I can’t see that he would be excommunicated. Saying that, I don’t think this was Shakespeare’s position.

      • Josephine

        A man who sacrifices the immortal souls of his children to keep his Protestant spouse happy is no true Catholic. I’m sure you can see that.

    • Lily,

      Before a Catholic enters into a mixed marriage he/she has to promise, together with their intended spouse, that any children will be baptised and raised Catholic. To renege on that promise is tantamount to apostasy from the faith. There is no difference between a Catholic parent participating in non-Catholic worship and allowing the children to do so. The Church has always insisted upon offspring being baptised and raised in the true faith. There is no dispensation for a weak Catholic parent in the matter.

      • Athanasius,

        I do know that about the promise before marriage but it’s only the Catholic partner who makes it nowadays. I know of a situation where the Catholic husband is lapsed but the wife was a practising Protestant and because the husband didn’t practise, she took them to the Kirk. Does that really mean he’s excommunicated, because I’m friends with his wife and although she’d probably have let him bring them up Catholics if he took them to Mass, she wouldn’t take them and you can’t blame her for that. I know more than one case like this where the husband or wife is a lapsed Catholic.

        If they’re excommunicated does that mean they can’t just go to Confession to return to the practise of the faith? What would they have have to do, if they ever wanted to return?

        • Lily

          My advice, if they wanted to return to the Church, would be that they discuss their situation with a sound priest. He is certainly an apostate and she should have been made to promise to raise the children Catholic before permission was granted for them to marry. I am not aware that the Church has changed that law. She frowns on mixed marriages generally, and no wonder, but always insists on the children being raised in the faith. I cannot understand her not being asked to promise this before she was married, it’s the Church’s law.

          • Athanasius, I don’t know whether or not he Church has changed the law – but I do know that when an Anglican young lady was required to make that promise in 1953, she burst into tears and said “I’m not having my children brought up as Catholics”, and the dispensation to marry (in an Anglican Church) was nevertheless given to the Catholic partner. The three children were brought up in their mother’s faith.

            • Christina

              Someone is not telling you the truth. I can assure you that the Church has never, ever permitted a dispensation to Catholics to marry in non-Catholic churches, especially in the 1950s during the reign of Pius XII. Take my word for it, you have been told a porkie.

              • Editor and Athanasius, I wasn’t told a porkie, I made a mistake in the date. Mea maxima culpa!😖 My fingers typed 1953 when my brain told them to type 1983. The priest in question left the priesthood to marry shortly after. The story is true – no possibility of error there – except the date!

                • Christina,

                  My apologies to all priests and bishops living, moving, having their being (and undoubtedly being faithful to Canon Law!) in 1953 😀

                • Christina

                  The priest tells us all we need to know. Your friend should check on the validity of her marriage. I think it’s invalid according to the law of the Church. He had no authority to breach the law of the Church and tell any Catholic that they had a dispensation to marry in a non-Catholic Church. The Catholic Church does not recognise such unions and he knew it. Your friend should seek advice on that from a sound priest.

          • Athanasius,

            I think it’s only fair that the Catholic partner in a marriage is the one who should make the promise. I don’t think anyone should be made to say they will bring children up in a religion they don’t believe in. I know someone who did that, she was a neighbour of mine and said she “turned” to get married and did bring up the children as Catholics even though her husband turned out to be a bad lot and left her in the end.

            I do agree that the Church’s law which discourages mixed marriages is right but I think that genie is out of the bottle now.

    • Lily,

      I think this shows the danger of mixed marriages and why the Church frowns on them. I would say that these issues should be ironed out before marriage. If a potential spouse didn’t agree to children being raised Catholic then the marriage cannot take place.

      • Petrus

        Absolutely correct! Any refusal on the part of a non-Catholic to promise that children will be raised Catholic is a serious impediment to marriage. The wedding would not be allowed to take place. At least that’s the teaching of the Church, it does not exclude the possiblity of rogue priest dissenters who will allow anything.

      • Petrus,

        I don’t think that would work these days. People would just marry in Protestant churches or registry offices. I don’t think the problem is that spouses won’t agree to children bring raised Catholics, I think they do but later fall away and it doesn’t help if the Catholic partner is weak. I think the onus is on the Catholic to show the children example and take them to Mass. It shouldn’t be on the non-Catholic partner IMHO.

    • I think this is one of the reasons why the Church discourages mixed marriages. Surely the upbringing of children will have been ironed out before marriage? If the non-Catholic spouse cannot agree to the children being Catholic then a marriage cannot take place. If he or she tries to hoodwink the Catholic spouse and simply pretend to agree, then I would argue that there was no valid marriage.

      • Petrus (and Athanasius)

        You are both right, of course, needless to say, how could it be otherwise!

        However, I know from personal experience (among my own relatives) that there can be situations where the non-Catholic spouse did accept that the children would be raised Catholics, but the Catholic spouse lapsed and then it fell to the non-Catholic to have the children baptised and take them to Mass. If that person is a believing Protestant of some kind (my own relative was, probably still is, a church-attending Protestant) that can be problematic, to put it mildly.

        In the above mentioned case, the non-Catholic spouse told me that she had been quite prepared (if not happy about it) to allow her husband to take the children to Mass but she was not going to do so. At the time of their marriage, only the Catholic partner had to make the promise. I can see her point, although obviously it is tragic, from the point of view of their children being brought up outside the Catholic Church.

        Mixed marriages are now commonplace, and it is difficult to see how the former situation can ever be restored, where parents and priests actively discouraged young people from entering relationships with non-Catholics which might lead to marriage. No use praying to “St William Shakespeare of Stratford” now, is there? 😀

        • Editor

          Yes, I see your point. However, it was, and remains, mandatory under Church law for both parties to promise to raise the children Catholic before the Church will allow a mixed marriage. I think the non-Catholic spouse only has to promise not to obstruct the raising of the children in the Catholic faith. All the onus is on the Catholic spouse. If he/she fails in the promise made then there is a terrible judgment awaiting that person in eternity, unless repented of. A bit late for the kids, though, who have probably been raised in a false religion or no religion at all, and who may well lose their souls as a result of their Catholic parent’s apostasy.

          Terrible that any Catholic parent would visit such a dreadful possibility on their own children.

          • Athanasius, I agree. I would ask prayers for my relative who, while from a good enough Catholic family, lost out on a sound Catholic education during the post-Vatican II years.

            • Editor,

              My grandmother was a Protestant (Anglican). She agreed to bring up her eight children Catholic. However, my grandfather disappeared from the scene when the eight children were very young. She continued to take them to Mass until they were adults. There situations are incredibly difficult. What I would say is that the Catholic spouse in these cases will have a lot to answer for!

            • Editor,

              Sadly, it is all too common a story today. The amount of souls deprived of a sound Catholic education thanks to the conciliar revolution. The bishops are the spiritual parent apostates in those cases and will have to answer for them, millions of them.

  3. Writing this very much on the run, but I think Shakespeare was very much a Catholic, that Dr White is an authority on the subject of literature and that Joseph Pearce makes much stronger arguments for the case than Fr DeLallo makes against.

    • Summa

      Dr. White lost all credibility in my eyes when he embraced the daft “Resistance”. But this is not really about him, it’s about Shakespeare, and I think it is quite obvious from what I said in my opening comment, recorded historical evidence, that he could not be Catholic. Catholics do not have their children baptised and raised Protestant. Neither do they stand Godfather for a child in an Anglican church, especially during the period of his lifetime. That would have been the worst of betrayals of the Church and his faith. No, he was not a Catholic.

      • Athanasius, whether Dr White has gone resistance or not is irrelevant. His literary analysis and commentaries on Catholic literature are quite excellent. An expert by any measure.

        • Summa

          I disagree entirely. Dr. White’s defection to the “resistance” indicates poor Catholic discernment, which is an operation of divine grace. Intellectualism alone is not therefore sufficient to make the case for sound judgement on Dr. White’s analysis of Shakespeare. The Modernist revolutionaries at Vatican II were very intellectual in their documentary presentations of what Catholicism ought to be, yet we now know that they were spiritually deluded.

          There are many instances in history of intellectual Catholics who relied too much on their own abilities and fell into religious error. No amount of intellectual argument or literary expertise can circumvent the very basic teaching of the Church concerning participation in false religions. And we know that Shaespeare paricipated in Anglicanism in a very public and committed way.

  4. Well, I don’t know what to think – Fr DeLallo makes a good case against Shakespeare being a Catholic, but this short talk from Joseph Pearce is also very interesting, so I’m not sure what to think.

  5. Josephine

    In the video you linked, Joseph Pierce talks about all the pieces of the “jigsaw” he has managed to uncover relating to Shakespeare’s Catholicism, yet he doesn’t produce a single one of them except to say that Shaespeare’s mother was a famous “Recusant” Catholic, which we already know and which makes Shakespeare’s Anglican associations all the more damning.

    Now I did a little research on Joseph Pierce and found that he is another English convert to Catholicism. Once a member of the National Front, he became involved with Roberto Fiore and “Distributism”. You may be aware that we have dealt with these matters before on the blog. The ITP people infiltrated into the SSPX in England back in the 1980s and tried to push Distributism under the cloak of Catholicism. They were mostly men who had revolutionary pasts, or were at least members of revolutionary groups, such as the National Front. They were ostensibly unmasked and silenced, but there are still sympathisers lurking within the SSPX in various countries. These are the people who want Dorothy Day to be canonised. So I think that rather dismisses Joseph Pierce as a credible source.

    • I believe Pearce parted company with Fiore by the time the ITP came into being, so he didn’t have a role in the efforts by nationalists and their ilk to use third-way ideas as a Trojan horse to gain influence in traditional chapels. But otherwise, yes, Pearce had a racialist-nationalist background, converted to Catholicism by way of the Chesterton-Belloc-distributism school, and is in the Shakespeare-as-recusant camp.

    • Athanasius,

      On thinking it all over, I have re-read some of the comments and yours about the Joseph Pearce video – I’m thinking Fr DeLallo is right in his view about the unlikelihood that Shakespeare was a Catholic.

      I was just thinking that there are hardly any practising Catholics in the arts, politics or on TV. All the ones who are known to be Catholics are modernist types. Even Mel Gibson, after making that wonderful film The Passion of the Christ, left his wife and family and went off with someone else, and is having more children out of wedlock. It’s really very strange. It seems Catholics cannot keep the faith when they face temptation, especially in the public square.

  6. I’m just catching up with this thread, and there’s already plenty to mull over.

    Tomorrow, God willing, I’ll see the video and check all links. For now, beauty sleep beckons!

  7. Editor,

    I had to smile upon seeing this thread, because I wrote a paper in high school about the alleged controversy as to whether William Shakespeare was a nom de plume. That paper is long since lost (thank God), but I believe I swallowed the bait whole and decided that “Shakespeare” was really Sir Francis Bacon – who, as it turns out, was virulently anti-Catholic. Here is the Wikipedia article on the Shakespeare authorship question: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakespeare_authorship_question

    I noticed a couple of things about the linked article that introduces this thread: one, it refers to the (long-moribund) authorship controversy but cites Edward de Vere as the probably author, not Sir Francis Bacon. Two, the article quotes the “Archbishop” of Canterbury’s opinion that Shakespeare was Catholic – hardly a credible source. No more credible than the Vatican, in fact…

    Shakespeare has for many generations been taught as one of those preeminent literary giants who have plumbed the depths of the human condition and the human character, but I don’t recall ever having been taught anything about his plumbing of the Divine Mysteries – which he would certainly have done if he had been Catholic. It’s also curious, given the anti-European/anti-Caucasian mindset that has become entrenched in the education establishment, that Shakespeare is even discussed at all, rather than dismissed as one of those “dead white European males” who are supposed to cause we “enlightened” moderns such horror.

    • RCA Victor,

      Reading (and smiling at) your final paragraph, the thought came to me that were Shakespeare really a Catholic, i.e. a real Catholic, then his works would be banned from the classrooms of the western world, without a second’s delay!

      Then again, would any Catholic have written some of the stuff he has written, in the first place?

      • Editor,

        No, I don’t think a Catholic would write some of the things Shakespeare wrote. Look at Romeo and Juliet – disobedience, impurity, murder, suicide! Hardly virtuous Catholic reading. Oh, and don’t get me started on Hamlet!

    • RCA Victor, if you were a compulsive watcher of quiz programs (Brit. variety) like as what I am, you would know, from the ignorance of students at ‘uni’ and younger members of the teaching profession that English Literature, as produced by dead authors, poets and dramatists is largely terra incognita to the Great British Public. (I generalise of course). A ‘uni’ student of English, faced with a simple question on English poets on ‘The Chase’ said “We didn’t do poetry on my degree course”. And on ‘Pointless’, questions on Shakespeare are getting few and far between since they usually have all six contestants claiming never to have ‘done’ Shakespeare!!

      • Christina,

        Even when they “do” a bit of Shakespeare, they don’t “get it”. In my early years of teaching English, I once spent weeks preparing a class to read a bit of Romeo & Juliet (sorry, Petrus!) using video of Elizabethan England, bits of the text in modern prose to give them some understanding of the story, and then gathered them in the lecture theatre to watch a clip (balcony scene). Despite all the preparation, weeks of it, and a chunk of time in the actual lesson before viewing the clip, a voice was heard from the back, a few minutes into the film saying, in clear frustration: “Fit’s at boy sayin’?”

        City of Aberdeen: tr. “what’s that man saying”? 😀

        Some time later: Head of English to moi: “I did warn you…”

        • Editor

          You should have adapted the play to Aberdonian.

          Romeo, oh Romeo, furrybouts ye fae, Romeo!

          Ma Name’s no Romeo, ya daft bint, it’s Alistair, and I’ll tell ye where am fae wance a tak ye doon fae that girder yer perched own like a numpty. Sling us doon a piece ‘n’ jam while we wait for the fire brigade.

          You get the general drift? It’s all about adaptation to the times and local dialect.

        • Editor,

          I studied Romeo and Juliet for Higher English and enjoyed it. It’s got all the makings of a good story, but it’s not exactly G.K. Chesterton, is it? More akin to D.H. Lawrence!

          • Petrus,

            Yes, I agree…”all the makings of a good story” – if I’d been his English teacher I’d have marked R & J “a very promising piece of work, William. Pay more attention to creating believable characters; perhaps make them a little more religious – have Romeo studying moral theology, that sort of thing, but overall, a very good start…”

        • Ed.,

          “…using video of Elizabethan England…”

          Now that’s what I call intrepid lesson preparation!

          Was there any footage of a balding chap in doublet and hose, sitting at a writing desk and scribbling down a constant stream of rhyming couplets? If so, can you remember if he had a portrait of Henry VIII or Pope Paul III hanging on the wall because that could settle this debate once and for all?

  8. Editor

    You’re right. Some of his stuff (not all) was quite raunchy and vulgar. I don’t think a Catholic would have written it. What people forget about the period is that the newly-born Anglican religion tried to keep as much of a Catholic front as possible. This, I believe, has contributed to the confusion over Shakespeare’s beliefs. Some of his ideas may have originated in Catholicism but they clearly got a bit skewed when mixed with the Anglican mindset, a little like Modernist Catholics today who present a semblance of Catholicism, but heavily influenced by the Protestant thought that infiltrated post-Vatican II by the back door of ecumenism.

    • Given that Shakespeare wasn’t excessively harsh towards Islam in his plays, there’s even a curious claim that the Bard of Avon was a crypto-Muslim.

        • Editor,

          I believe the purpose of trying to link Shakespeare and Islam is summed up by this, from the article: “The centerpiece of the Globe’s season was a host of events tying in with Islam Awareness Week, seven days of promoting Islam and its culture in the United Kingdom to ease tensions and forward understanding…”

          Obama played the same phony card about a year ago, I think, when he made a speech claiming that Islam was an important part of America’s foundation! We didn’t realize it then, but he was apparently trying to grease the skids for admitting thousands of Syrian Muslims into the US as “refugees.” In response to which, John Vennari posted this perfect cartoon:

          If there’s one thing that is painfully obvious in all this absurdity, it is the utter contempt in which we peons are held by the globalist elites. From human beings claiming to be members of the opposite sex, to killing babies in their mothers’ wombs interpreted as “feminism,” to assuring us that Islam is a “religion of peace” – it’s all anti-reason presented as reason, and we are not only expected to believe and accept such things, but if we don’t, we face demonization, or persecution, or worse.

    • Athanasius, if by raunchy and vulgar you’re referring to the language used in many scenes, remember that we are very prissy by comparison with our forebears, and what seems vulgar and unacceptable language to us was commonplace and acceptable in henrician and elizabethan times. For example, nothing could sound more disgustingly offensive to our Catholic ears than some of the polemical writins of St. Thomas More. If I quoted from his ‘Responsio ad Lutherum’, written at the behest of Henry VIII, on this blog, I, too, would be history😷.

      • Christina

        I have to question whether St. Thomas More would have written anything vulgar. Perhaps someone is putting words in his mouth, so to speak, by which I mean it may have lost (or gained) something in translation from the original Latin into a vulgar language. Vulgarity of any kind is not exactly common in the writings of the saints.

        Even so, any comparison between Shakespeares very public vulgarity and impurity with something St. Thomas wrote privately to an arch heretic is stretching matters a little, I think. The law of God forbade impure and vulgar talk and behaviour in the times of Henry and Elizabeth just as strictly as it does today. That men of the time contravened the divine law is even more reason why Catholic of all times and ages should avoid Shakespeare.

        • I beg to differ here, Athanasius. You simply cannot graft your modern ideas of vernacular vulgarity onto those of a an earlier age. Scatological conversation and writing has become disgusting and obscene in these days of internal plumbing, but it was not so when an open sewer ran down the centre of every street and one needed to move pretty prompty when the cry of “Gardyloo” was heard from an open window! The common people perforce lived close to the realities of nature, and words that we no longer use in polite conversation were commonplace, and were not regarded as obscenities. Hence the use of such language by Shakespeare in his street and tavern scenes. Hence also the use of such language by St. Thomas More in some of his vernacular polemical writings meant to be read by the common people. The polemic I cited was not ‘written privately to an arch heretic’, nor was it a translation from Latin. It was published and widely circulated, as were his other vernacular polemics defending Catholic orthodoxy against the polemics of the heretics that were being widely disseminated. As ‘The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy’ explains:

          “(Thomas More’s) career as a polemicist began when he was drafted, probably by the Council, to answer Luther’s assault on Henry’s Assertio, and in 1528 he was enlisted by Tunstall to provide a vernacular response to the heretical books illegally shipped in from the Continent.

          While his polemical writings were sometimes ‘earthy’, they were by no means always so, but earthy or not, his defence of the faith in them was, to my mind as praiseworthy as his later devotional writings from the Tower.

          We might call Luther’s ideas a load of old codswallop. St. Thomas used a shorter term the people were very familiar with!

          • Christina,

            To be honest, I’m so ignorant about Shakespeare that when I read all the comments and the debate about “raunchy” I had to go to Google for help, LOL!

            I was quite taken aback at what I found, it wasn’t what I expected at all. I will post a link which will probably be deleted and my pay docked! However, I think people like me need some quotes to help us decide about the content of Shakespeare’s plays, as to whether they are guilty of impurity or not and whether you would want a young Catholic reading them. I wouldn’t want any child of mine reading any of these lines and I really don’t think I’m prudish.

            Editor: I did delete your link, Laura, because the “translations” under each Shakespeare quote were very crude. Sorry, I know I’ll be written off as a prude, but we do try to maintain the highest standards in terms of purity (language/images etc) on this blog. I can see what you were/are trying to do, but I think if bloggers and readers wish to search for examples of sexual references in Shakespeare, they can do so themselves, and perhaps find a link where the author doesn’t comment on or “translate” the Shakespearean quote to make it a typically 21st century obscenity. There’s always a chance that the students don’t understand the meaning of the sexual references (or some of them) in Shakespeare but reading that link, there’s no doubt! No offence intended and no pay docked – I know you mean well!

            • Laura, you have perhaps brought up an important point here. I know that when I studied Shakespeare, Chaucer, et al, we studied them in their original form (which was in Middle English in the latter case) and not in modern “translations” which came in with the general dumbing-down of education. As obscenities have changed over time, those of Shakespeare’s age are not readily recognsed today and so don’t register as one reads a play in which the action is vivid and holds the attention. With Editor’s warning, I’ve no wish to read your link, but I would certainly not want children to read this sort of “translation” because no child that I have ever met would understand evaluation of the language within an historial context.

      • Christina,

        ” If I quoted from his ‘Responsio ad Lutherum’, written at the behest of Henry VIII, on this blog, I, too, would be history😷.”

        LOL!

  9. Isn’t the question: Was Shakespeare a Catholic? I have a feeling that this thread is veering off on a… Was Shakespeare a good Catholic? … heading.
    Of the former, I’m sure he was was, of the latter, we can never really know.
    Joseph Pearce has written several good books on this subject and that video is a little dated and I’m inclined to agree with Pearce.
    Athanasius, your post at 12:08 doesn’t add to the discussion really. It is more of an ad hominem character attack is it not? Attack the man and not the argument?
    You see we have plenty of Saints in Heaven who at some points in their lives were guilty of crimes much worse than being in the National Front.

    • Summa

      I was not attacking the man but rather pointing to his past association with radicals and with the error of distributism, which they, like him, propose to be Catholic. This has a bearing on the man’s credibility as a Catholic intellectual.

      In fact, it is pierce himself who presents a case for Shakespeare’s Catholicism without providing a shred of evidence. He speaks of bits of a jigsaw that he has pieced together but doesn’t tell us what they are.

      For me the case is abundantly clear from the little we already know with historical certainty, which is that no true Catholic at that time would have had his children baptised and raised in a non-Catholic religion. Nor would a true Catholic have stood Godfather to an Anglican friend’s child. These things were forbidden by the Church under pain of excommunication.

      Furthermore, if the argument favouring Shakespeare’s crypto-Catholicism were true then his daughter (Mrs. Hall) would not have grown into a devout Puritan, for she would have been secretly schooled in the Catholic religion. Besides that some of the content in Shakespeare’s work is immoral and nihilist, other indicators that he was not Catholic. In the final analysis there is more evidence to suggest that Shakespeare was not Catholic than that he was

      And here’s another matter to weigh. Compare the life of St. Thomas More. He sacrificed everything, even his life, rather than betray his Catholic Faith. If we are now to accept that Shakespeare was really a clever crypto-Catholic worthy of note, then what are we saying about St. Thomas and other martyrs of the period? Surely the conclusion would have to be that they were neurotic extremists void of all sense of expediency?

      No, all evidence points to Shakespeare being an Anglican by religious conviction. Those who argue to the contrary do so with vague and controversial quotes that are historically unreliable. Basic Church law forbidding participation in the ceremonies of false religions is in itself sufficient to eliminate Shakespeare as a Catholic.

    • Summa,

      I don’t think it’s an ad hominem attack just to mention someone’s background. It helps to know what influences someone when trying to work out whether we agree with them or not.

  10. Summa

    So I’m useless when it comes to remembering names. Thanks for the correction, I look forward to your response to my comment.

  11. In fairness to Joseph Pearce, although the video posted above is just a “teaser” and does not cite any pieces of this “jigsaw puzzle,” save one (his mother’s family), there is a little text below on the YouTube version which does, or which claims to, at any rate, point to some evidence:

    “Professor Pearce reveals little-known details of Shakespeare’s life, including his Catholic education, openly Catholic father and daughter, his friendship with Jesuit martyr St. Robert Southwell, and his purchase of the Blackfriar’s Gatehouse—a known hub for underground Catholic liturgy.”

    The video also claims that Shakespeare’s mother, an Arden, was from a “recusant” family. Finally, if you click on the sponsoring link of the YouTube version, “CatholicCourses.com,” you are taken to the TAN books website, and a DVD set on this subject, where you can see that Mr. Pearce has carved out quite a little niche for himself on various modern Catholic topics.

    At any rate, I’m not familiar with any of this alleged evidence, so I hope other bloggers who are of a more literary/historical bent than I am can fill in some blanks.

  12. RCA Victor

    I’ve studied all those alleged “jigsaw pieces” and found them to have absolutely no substance in fact. What Mr. Pearce is recounting is a series of speculative theories based on rumour and fancy. The gatehouse one, for example, was historically investigated and recorded as a business proposition, pure and simple. Also, his father was not renowned for Catholicism. On the contrary, he was appointed Alderman in his town, a position not given to Catholics at the time, only to practicing Anglicans. His father also helped to whitewash over images of the saints in Catholic churches.

    It’s worth mentioning as well that the first line of his last will and testament reads typically of the Protestant Solus Christus belief, which opposes Catholic teaching on the need for souls to correspond with the grace of Christ by “working out their salvation”, as the apostle puts it. Protestants believe that salvation is guaranteed to all by faith in Christ alone.

    Whatever is said about his mother’s side of the family is again speculative, and at any rate there is no evidence to suggest that Shakespeare was ever raised a Catholic. He is registered as baptised and raised in the Anglican religion. The same applies to all the other so-called “jigsaw pieces” being touted around by those desperate to claim Shakespeare for the Catholic Church. None of it stands up under scrutiny.

    As I said before, the scant recorded evidence that exists of Shakespeares life seems to show conclusively that he was a professed Anglican who happened to be rather indifferent in practice. He used some Catholic references in his plays, sometimes, it is claimed, in caricature, but beyond that the man had no affiliation with the Catholic religion.

    But even if he had been secretly Catholic his apostasy by public adherence to a false religion is absolutely clear and indisputable. The Church has no use for so-called “crypto Catholics”, for as Our Lord admonished: “those who deny me before men, I will deny before my Father in heaven”.

    The problem with Shakespeare being hailed a great Catholic literary figure is that Catholic youth are exposed to imprudently to his works, which have in them some dangerous ideas on morality and faith. While I readily admit that much of his work is very good, there has to be discernment when decisions are made as to what works can and cannot be presented to young Catholic souls.

  13. CULTURAL MARXISM AND SENSITIVITY TRAINING

    Margaret USA,

    Your mention of Dr. White’s tenure as a senior lecturer at Annapolis Naval Academy, the most prestigious in the US, rang some very serious alarm bells in my head, so I did some research and I would very much appreciate it if you and all other bloggers would study my findings. I am now convinced that Shakespeare’s works should not be taught to Catholic youth in any way, shape or form. They are utterly inappropriate. We must also be on guard against so-called Catholic academics who push Shakespeare as a Catholic writer.

    Please first take the time to re-read the September 8 blog article: “Catholic Moral Principles Concerning the Reading of Literature”, here: https://catholictruthblog.com/2016/09/10/morality-you-are-what-you-read/

    Pay particular heed to what is recounted about the Immaculate Heart of Mary (I.H.M.) nuns and other orders. Here’s a reminder:

    Note on the I.H.M. Nuns: In the late 1960s, we also saw the destruction of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Order (I.H.M.), which was the largest order of teaching nuns in the United States at that time. This work of destruction was accomplished by the use of non-directive psychotherapy under the direction of two renowned psychologists of the time, Dr. Carl Rogers and Dr. William Coulson.

    In an interview by Dr. William Marra, called “The Story of a Repentant Psychologist” (which can be found on the EWTN website, and in a special issue of the Latin Mass Magazine in 1994), Dr. Coulson says: “We inundated that system with humanistic psychology. We called it Therapy for Normals, TFN. The IHMs had some 60 schools when we started; at the end, they had one. There were some 560 nuns when we began. Within a year after our first interventions, 300 of them were petitioning Rome to get out of their vows. They did not want to be under anyone’s authority, except the authority of their imperial inner selves.”

    Dr. Coulson and Dr. Rogers, along with 58 other “facilitators”, organized small encounter/sensitivity groups. The participants were encouraged to express their real, innermost feelings as they interacted with the others participants. Coulson says: “They were more open with one another, they were less deceitful, they didn’t hide their judgments from one another. If they didn’t like one another they were inclined to say so; and if they were attracted to one another, they were inclined to say that, too.”

    By means of this sensitivity training, participants were told that they had the answers within themselves; they are their own authority, and that they were to appeal solely to their consciences: “What does this mean to you?”; “I cannot pass judgment on your feelings.” However, since one’s innermost feelings also include suppressed inclinations of sensuality, the encounter groups also sparked disordered familiarities and immoral behavior – including homosexual behavior, as Dr. Coulson admits in his interview with Dr. Marra.

    According to Coulson, he and Dr. Rogers also used this sensitivity training on other Religious Orders: “We corrupted a whole raft of Religious Orders on the west coast in the ‘60s by getting the nuns and priests to talk about their distress… We did similar programs for the Jesuits, for the Franciscans, for the Sisters of Providence of Charity, and for the Mercy Sisters.”

    Now, follow these links preceded by a quotation taster and read the articles by Dr. Gerald L Atkinson:

    http://www.newtotalitarians.com/index_files/LeadershipEthicsTraining.htm

    “Suppose you became aware that our public school system over the past 30 years had become subject to methods and techniques which weakened the moral fiber of children and adolescents. Further, suppose you found out that this program had a name — ‘values clarification.’ It is the teaching of ‘situational ethics,’ the name given to the relativism of moral values. That is, we are a ‘multicultural’ society. Consequently, I have my morals, you have yours and one is as valid as the other. So, who am I to judge your morals. And you cannot judge mine. There are no absolute standards, even religious standards, that are guides to sound morals and ethical behavior.

    Suppose you also became aware that graduate students in solid M.B.A. programs at major U.S. universities were judged by their professors to be budding young Marxists. That is, the students equate ethics with correct views on social and political issues rather than honesty and integrity. One might wonder how such ideas became glued to the psyche of America’s young.

    Suppose we awakened one day and learned that members of our military, all of them from the highest ranking officer to the lowliest recruit, were being subjected to a process of thought control called ‘sensitivity training.’ And suppose that on further inquiry we learned that this harmless-sounding phrase in actuality describes a process of indoctrination that reaches into the furthest depths of one’s being.

    Furthermore, suppose you awakened from a long slumber and found that the same virus that has infected our ‘multicultural’ public schools (K-12), some of the nation’s premiere business schools, and our active-duty military establishment had also taken root at a prize military education establishment, the U.S. Naval Academy. If so, would you not want to know more about this situation?

    While conducting research into the history, personalities, and techniques of ‘sensitivity training,’ I have found convincing evidence that the U.S. Naval Academy has been indoctrinating a future generation of naval officers in a political correctness, actually a ‘cultural Marxism,’ that has a long dark history and portends a dangerous future. And all of this is being conducted under the ‘cover’ of a ‘leadership and ethics’ program that has the blessing of high-ranking Navy Flag officers and other honorable and well-intentioned naval officers, active duty and retired. I have found direct evidence of just such a program at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD, the premiere educational facility for our future naval officers.

    http://www.newtotalitarians.com/index_files/FrankfurtSchool.htm

    “If you have absorbed any of the background material presented in this series of essays on “‘Cultural Marxism’ at the U.S. Naval Academy,” you should be quite concerned that our future naval officers are being subjected to psychic intimidation and indoctrination by behavioral psychologists and clinicians whose methods descend from Wilhelm Wundt [1]. The ‘facilitators’ and civilian professors in the ‘Leadership and Ethics’ program at the Academy are Wundtians all. The ‘cultural Marxism’ that has invaded our military academies and other military institutions is pervasive. As a result, these future naval officers will not have an understanding of the essence of what they are chosen to protect, that is, American civilization [2] — the most vital and precious descendent of Western civilization.

    One must wonder who ‘they’ are. Who in America today is at work destroying our traditions, our family bonds, our religious beginnings, our reinforcing institutions, indeed, our entire culture? What is it that is changing our American civilization?

    Indeed, a thoughtful person should ask himself or herself whether or not all this ‘change’ from America’s traditional culture is simply a random set of events played out by a random set of players, all independent of each other — all disconnected from any central premise or guidance. It is entirely possible that chance is at work here and all of these ‘threads’ of American culture are the random workings of the human intellect (the pursuit of what is possible, vice what is appropriate) in a free, democratic society.

    But suppose you were to learn that nearly all of the observations made in this series of essays are completely consistent with a ‘design’ — that is a concept, a way of thinking, and a process for bringing it about.”

    I know there’s a lot to read here folks but please make the effort. I believe this may explain why some Catholic intellectuals are pushing Shakespeare against the evidence as Catholic and educational. We need to beware.

  14. Athanasius,

    Thank you for that. The thinking of behavioural psychologists / “values clarification” was (probably still is) part of the fabric of teacher training courses in “my day” (I can’t believe I just said/wrote that!) For those with little to nothing in the way of spiritual, religious and moral resources, it’s deadly.

    Interestingly, you are in very good company with your dislike of Shakespeare’s work. Here’s a very interesting assortment of famous people who not only disliked William but hated him (or, rather, his work.)

    And here, for a little light relief, and with only a vague relationship to the topic (see title!) is the nearest I can find in video-spoof form of the kind of nonsensical “values clarification” (non)thinking to which priests and teachers were (and no doubt still are) subjected in training… Enjoy!

    • Editor

      Many thanks for that link. I was particularly interested in Leo Tolstoy’s description of Shakespeare (below), which I think reinforces what I have written above:

      “I have felt, with even greater force, the same feelings—this time, however, not of bewilderment, but of firm, indubitable conviction that the unquestionable glory of a great genius, which Shakespeare enjoys and which compels writers of our time to imitate him and readers and spectators to discover in him non-existent merits (thereby distorting their aesthetic and ethical understanding)—is a great evil, as is every untruth.”

    • Editor

      Thank you. I’ve watched that video before and it’s really funny. Hard to believe that there really are many people like that teaching in universities today.

    • Editor,

      Situation ethics was very much a core component of my initial teacher education in the 90s/early 2000s. Shocking stuff and, as you say, absolutely deadly!

  15. While we’re debunking people of undeserved fame, perhaps we can temporarily turn our attention to Beethoven’s piano works, and even some of his piano chamber music. When I first arrived in Cincinnati to begin my doctorate in piano, my new teacher informed me of his low opinion of same. Needless to say, i was shocked at this blasphemy, but having gained some perspective from having left the music world for almost 20 years, I can now say that I agree with him. Beethoven’s piano works, despite their architectural genius and thematic development (of themes too often bombastic), really are frequently just clumsy, crude, and unpianistic, esp. when compared to Chopin or even Mozart. In fact, one frequently gets the impression that Beethoven was trying to hammer the piano into submission (an impression affirmed by the title of one of his most famous piano sonatas, the “Hammerklavier.”).

    I recall reading somewhere, in the dim recesses of my musical past, that toward the end of his life Beethoven in fact decided that the “pianoforte” (or “fortepiano”) was an unsuitable instrument. I suspect that was his way of avoiding self-examination regarding the repertoire he had created for this “unsuitable instrument.”

    It would be interesting to make a catalogue of the various figures in modern times whose reputations far exceeded their actual artistic or literary worth.

    • Oh no, oh no! This a step too far. What about the sublime piano concertos, esp the 3rd and 4th? Clunky? Crude? Never.
      And I have been following the conversation about Shakespeare with some degree of bemusement. Whether or not he was Catholic, some of his plays and poetry are incredible. Beautiful passages : The quality of mercy is not strained…just to quote a well known line…
      Would you seriously advocate the removal of one of our greatest literary figures from the curriculum? Of course there are difficult themes and ideas but these are found in all great literature. Who next? Dickens? Tolstoy? The Brontes? Chaucer? You cannot be serious.
      And if you really want a piano thumper then what about Rachmaninov? Though I am happy for you to put Schoenberg in Room 101.
      Life is difficult, challenging filled with emotions and conflict and our classics reflect that.
      What you actually need are truly Catholic teachers who can point out the problems in the study of Shakespeare et al, not to lock these works away and deny their existence!
      I now go back behind the parapet and await the wrath of Athanasius!

      • Elizabeth,

        You are right in that there are some beautiful passages in Shakespeare and “the quality of mercy” is one of them for sure. In my youth, I once quoted a sentence from Shakespeare which was so beautiful that I attributed it to Our Lord! No computers in those days so I had to rewrite the entire letter (to a seminarian!)

        You are also correct in that all literature needs to be carefully taught by Catholic teachers (all right thinking teachers, in fact) and, hopefully, that is what would happen and what, in fact, I have taken for granted happens (or did happen at one time) in Catholic classrooms.

        It has been an eye-opener for me, however, to discover that there is a very large amount of hostility towards Shakespeare’s works by other famous authors – you mention Tolstoy. He’s one of the five writers whom I cited above, who hated Shakespeare’s work. I’ve copied what he said at 75 years of age, after re-reading the works of Shakespeare to check if his original youthful opinion had changed. It had not – this was his view at 75:

        “I have felt, with even greater force, the same feelings—this time, however, not of bewilderment, but of firm, indubitable conviction that the unquestionable glory of a great genius, which Shakespeare enjoys and which compels writers of our time to imitate him and readers and spectators to discover in him non-existent merits (thereby distorting their aesthetic and ethical understanding)—is a great evil, as is every untruth.”

        NOW, let’s await the “wrath of Athanasius” – unless he decides to go with Shakespeare (and Pope Francis) in applying some of that famous “mercy”!

        • Editor

          I wonder quite which ‘non existent merits’ Tolstoy refers to and which writers of our time are compelled to imitate him? His merits would seem to me to be an amazing facility with words, a sense of the dramatic, an understanding of the foibles of human nature a great knowledge of history and a sense of humour. Cannot think of any contemporary playwrights who come any where near that….except Alan Bennett (tongue in Cheek!)

      • Hi Elizabeth-Behind-the-Parapet (not the Parasol?),

        I should have been more specific: I meant his solo piano works, and some of his piano chamber music. The concerti are much more pianistic, and my favorites are #1 and 4. As for Rachmaninoff, while he was one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century, you can have his music. Everything he wrote sounds like the sound track to a movie. But it’s flashy and difficult, and I suppose pianists like to show off with it.

      • Elizabeth

        Are you sure you’ve read all the comments here? If you had I find it difficult to believe you would still be advocating Shakespeare for Catholic children.

        I don’t mean this offensively but your comment demonstrates for me just how deeply liberalism has penetrated into all of us. Personally speaking, I don’t care how good Shakespeare’s work may be regarded at the intellectual and/or entertainment level, I’m only interested in what it does to the soul.

        Speaking of which, I notice you mention Tolstoy in your comment. Well, follow the link Editor provided and see what Tolstoy had to say about the work of Shakespeare. It wasn’t very complimentary and I agree with him. Shakespeare and his works are way over-rated today.

        • Athanasius,

          I wonder if you studied any Shakespeare at school? I did, both at my Catholic primary school (merchant of Venice. And Midsummer nights dream) and then at my convent school I remember loving Julius Caesar, King Lear, and Macbeth. I don’t think it was ever discussed whether or not Shakespeare was a Catholic and I have no memories of evaluating the ethics or morals of the plays either. They were simply presented as brilliant literature/dramas and we debated the characterisations of the dramatis personae and the use of the language to tell the story. We also accepted that the language and humour was of its time, and as Christina says, they were bawdy days and the plays were enjoyed by the common man.

          I hope that I am not infected by liberalism but I think that the ideas portrayed in Shakespeare are as nothing compared to the average modern drama, soap, literature offered to children today. It is all about giving children the tools to exercise discernment not about refusing them the opportunities to do so. The committed Catholic teacher can draw from the texts plenty of food for good discussion and point out the inherent pitfalls where necessary.

          If you did “do” any Shakespeare at school, were you concerned for your soul then?

          • Elizabeth

            One of the most common tactics of the Cultural Marxists is to argue, as you do, that “It is all about giving children the tools to exercise discernment not about refusing them the opportunities to do so.”

            I’m not saying that you are a Cultural Marxist, far from it. What I am saying is that I think this statement suggests you were to some degree conditioned during your tender years to imbibe and adopt a non-Catholic view on literature. Believe me, you’re not alone in so misguided an approach to Catholic literary study. Many other Catholics of good will share your view today, lots of them educated by religious they and their parents trusted.

            My advice would be that you read again Fr. DeLallo’s previous blog article Catholic Moral Principles Concerning the Reading of Literature here: https://catholictruthblog.com/2016/09/10/morality-you-are-what-you-read/ and compare the sound Church teaching therein with the statement you wrote above. I am sure you will recognise the error.

            I have tried very hard throughout this thread to point out that we, as Catholics, have to weigh all literature, Shakespeare included, in a supernatural, not a worldly way. This means we have to look beyond the natural abilities and popularity of authors to see what is in the soul of their works before we place them before Catholic children.

            I take your point about children being exposed to far worse on TV today. But my response is that the lesser of evils concept is not admissible in the moral formation of young Catholic souls and minds.

            It is precisely because of the likes of Shakespeare, the so-called Renaisance painters and others who, at different periods, re-introduced pagan naturalism into the arts, that the world has come to its present hedonistic state. Read about the personal lives of these men, hailed in our day as the great masters, and you’ll soon see that they mostly lived immoral lives.

            I’m not being prudish here, just demonstrating the long centuries of gradual moral degradation that has led to the present crisis.

            • Cultural Marxism? I had to google that and this is one definition:
              The gradual process of destroying all traditions, languages, religions, individuality, government, family, law and order in order to re-assemble society in the future as a communist utopia.
              Not too sure how that fits with wanting to preserve the teaching of a great literary figure.
              I am sure you have a simpler definition that might explain why my views on the teaching of Shakespeare to children are indicative of a cultural Marxist mindset? Do we also throw Raphael, Tintoretto et al on your iconoclastic bonfire?

              • Elizabeth

                Perhaps, on reflection, I was a little too harsh in my response to you. I have looked back on your previous comments and I think your general opinion is that Shakespeare should be taught with appropriate caution and censorship. See my response to Summa below in which I bow to that approach.

                I apologise if I came across as inconoclastic before, that was not my intention. And no, I do not consider you to be a Cultural Marxist. You should not, however, dismiss too lightly the very real presenceof these people within Traditional Catholic intellectual circles. They are there, I assure you.

        • Athanasius

          Shakespeare over-rated? Whatever your opinion of his morality, his empathetic understanding of human nature and his poetic gift of description are unparalleled in the literature of any country, ever.

          Tolstoy? Not so much. Professional jealousy, perhaps, and who can blame him.

          • Therese

            You are of course entitled to hold that opinion, which seems to be the dominant one today. I do not share it.

            “…his empathetic understanding of human nature and his poetic gift of description are unparalleled in the literature of any country, ever.”

            Steady on, woman! He may have been good but he was not that good! Not quite up to canonisation standards in my view. St. Francis of Assisi outstripped the lot of them with the beauty and wisdom of a single prayer, commencing “Make me an instrument of thy peace…etc.”

            • Athanasius

              Hey, watch it pet! You should know by now that my opinion is the only one that matters.

              No, he wasn’t up for canonisation, but I’m left wondering how much of the Bard you have read? I repeat that I’m no scholar, but his insights were almost – dare I say it – divinely inspired?

      • Phew, thank you Elizabeth. I couldn’t have put it better myself. In fact my bemusement is such that I couldn’t have put it any way at all. I thought I’d landed in a meeting of Iconoclasts Anonymous. I loved the splendour and beauty of Shakespeare’s works, and of all the other familiar old friends you list. I cannot imagine what it would be like to have missed out on all that incomparable wealth of English literature. The good nuns, believe me, were well up to the task of safeguarding our morals without depriving us of that.

        • Christina

          I’d be careful about putting too much emphasis on the spiritual safeguarding abilities of “the good nuns”. If Vatican II has taught us anything it is that those we thought were sound in faith proved not to be so sound after all.

          • Athanasius, like a true gentleman you are forgetting that ‘my nuns’ were pre-Vat.II nuns. They were sound alright, and placed great emphasis on holy purity – a characteristic that has been vilely interpreted and turned against them by the apologists of new-church. I understand that times have changed, particularly where Catholic education is concerned, but if I were home-schooling children today they would not be deprived of the cultural education that I and other bloggers on this thread received. They would, however, also receive the moral education that we did, which allowed us to understand that the likes of Mistress Quickly and Doll Tearsheet were thorough wrong-uns, and that human beings were often great and wretched sinners. Quite honestly I cannot understand the idea that such inglorious low-life scenes might corrupt.

            • Christina

              Speaking of the nuns who taught you Shakespeare, you wrote:

              “They would, however, also receive the moral education that we did, which allowed us to understand that the likes of Mistress Quickly and Doll Tearsheet were thorough wrong-uns, and that human beings were often great and wretched sinners.”

              In his ‘Catholic Moral Principles Concerning Literature’, Fr. DeLallo (SSPX) writes:

              “In public and Catholic high schools, literature and poetry were introduced that contained texts describing immorality and sensuality…To defend their literature program, teachers explained that students should know about the grave moral evils in the world in order to be better prepared to confront them after high school. Besides, they argued, it’s not good to shelter kids from the evils they are going to see anyway when they go into the world.”

              Your last sentence read: ” Quite honestly I cannot understand the idea that such inglorious low-life scenes might corrupt.”

              Then I respectfully suggest that you read and reflect more on what the Church teaches about fallen human nature and its inclinations, especially in the tender years of formation.

              • Athanasius, through force of circumstances I have only been able to look at the blog intermittently for the past week or so. Thank you for your very detailed replies. When I was at school there was an annual prize awarded for ‘Pertinacity of Purpose’, and I didn’t know until now what it really meant (joking!)

                As regards your last paragraph here – believe it or not, I have, in a long life, found time to reflect on these matters. Furthermore, as a Catholic teacher, the Church’s teaching on ‘fallen human nature and its inclinations, especially in the tender years of formation’ was of particular and ever-present concern to me.

                For reasons that I went into in some detail in an earlier post, I stubbornly maintain that because those living in earlier ages lived in circumstances of unavoidable familiarity with natural functions now decently hidden except by the debauched, we cannot judge a C16 user of pure, everyday Anglo-Saxon words as we would judge the user of those same words, or their equivalent, today. We will have to agree to differ on that, as we clearly have different ideas as to the importance or otherwise of temporal linguistic context.

                I would agree, of course, that if material is an occasion of sin, then one should not be exposed to it. However, from my own experience I do have some difficulty in that context with the Fr. DeLallo article that you quoted (possibly later – I’m reading a lot of posts at one go). I think that inthe case of e.g. reading Shakespeare of necessity for study, he advocates expurgation, which is a really silly and dangerous idea IMHO. The only expurgated text I ever saw was something of Chaucer’s, and I will admit that my 14-year-old self gave in to prurient curiosity and searched out the original. That is surely the usual human reaction to a ‘blacked-out’ word – the word or passage itself would likely have been passed over with less attention. Also, I can say in all honesty, that when I was studying Shakespeare in classes of 16 to18-year-old girls, I experienced nothing that would indicate that the works were occasions of sin, and neither, I am as sure as I can be, did any of my class-mates. Most of the Anglo-Saxonisms were passed over and probably not understood, and a question only required the answer that that was just a coarse word. I could say the same about the immoral situations – eg fornication, as presented in Shahespeare. By the age of 16 we were able to judge that for what it is and pay aention only to the beauty of the language, to which not everyone, obviously, is equally sensitive.

                Occasions of sin, as Fr. DeLallo explains them, certainly apply, to the detailed sexual scenes described in modern novels, films and TV dramas which are truly pornographic. There is nothing remotely similar in anything that Shakespeare wrote, or indeed that was written in English before modern times.

                • Christina,

                  I absolutely agree with you. I did ask Athanasius if he had ever read/studied Shakespeare at school but he did not reply to that.

                  • Elizabeth

                    My education commenced in city schools for working class children at the height of the cultural revolution, the time of the hippies when scholasticism had entered into its death throes. I trust that answers your question.

                    My exposure to some Shakespeare came much later in life.

                • Christina

                  Thank you for your comment. There are two points I would like to respond to, though.

                  The first is the idea that back in the days of Shakespeare the people were more coarse and earthy in their everyday language and therefore less sensitive to obsenity and impurity than we are in these so-called times of intellectual refinement.

                  In fact, I believe the oppoiste to be true. It has long been a ploy of the Church’s enemies (I don’t mean you) to portray her at the height of her influence on Western culture as suppressive of the general population both intellectually and financially. The picture painted is therefore one of an ignorant, coarse population of illiterate paupers raised on turnips and fed with religious superstition.

                  Turnips aside, it is the present post-Catholic liberal culture that has become ignorant and unrefined, not to mention increasingly illiterate.

                  With this in mind I do not accept that Catholics, and even the first Protestants of the period under discussion, were desensitised to earthy and obsence conversation and behaviour. Religious faith and grace were far more abundant for so ill-refined a culture to have existed in thsoe days.

                  Sadly, too many in these times have come to believe the propaganda hammered into them all their lives about the wicked Catholic Church that fed off the ignorance of suppressed and illiterate populations.

                  That is not the true story of Catholic culture at all. The people of those times were far more sensitive in their souls to obsenity and impurity, by reason of faith and the grace of God, than they are today. Consequently, we come back to the error highlighted in Fr. DeLallo’s essay, that of moral subjectivism, the idea that obsenity and impurity alter with time, place and perception. Sin is an objective reality, not relativist! I hope you can see this critical truth.

                  We live today in a world dominated by moral subjectivism. Shakespeare’s world was quite the opposite, a world of Revealed moral truths which one contravened upon the peril of one’s immortal soul. Oh yes, they were far more refined in mind and conscience than the people of today, and consequently more acutely conscious of obscene and impure language.

                  The second point I would like to make is much shorter than the first. The essay of Fr. DeLallo is not his opinion written down for our acceptance or rejection. No, it is a compliation of various teachings of the Church, faithfully transmitted to us with references for our guidance in this confused world of today.

                  I get the impression from some of the references that have been made that the essay is considered less the teaching of the Church than a presentation of Father’s own thoughts in these matters. That’s not the case and so we are not at liberty to disagree with what he has written for our instruction. That would definitely make us moral relativists.

    • RCA Victor,

      That’s very interesting indeed. I’m copying your comment to send to my Great-Niece who is pursuing a music degree. She may never speak to me again, but, hey, what’s one more on the list!

  16. I am no Shakespeare expert or fan so I can’t really comment on his work but I think it’s interesting that people want to think he was a Catholic, just because he’s famous. I usually let the Catholic Encyclopaedia have the last word, so that’s what I’m doing now. All the comments are interesting and so on, but end of day, we don’t really know. To say he “died a papist” is interesting, but it doesn’t show he was a Catholic throughout his life and if his work is “raunchy” as Athanasius says, well, that’s not the work of a Catholic, IMHO.

  17. I’m no Shakespeare expert either, but I think to describe his works as “raunchy” is to judge from a modern perspective, which isn’t fair. I’m no Chaucer expert, either, but some of his writings seem very coarse and vulgar to my ears, and I remember being shocked when I read some of the language that dear St Thomas More used in referring to Luther! We live in a very different time; our use of language is very different, and our “sensibilities” are different.

    • Therese

      I think it’s very important that you don’t find yourself falling into moral subjectivism with this comparison of obsenity past and present. Obsenity is always and everywhere immoral and against the teaching of the Church. It is also always dangerous to tender souls and minds.

      Please read the “Note on Obsenity” section of “Catholic Moral Principles in Literature” presented by Fr. DeLallo here: https://catholictruthblog.com/2016/09/10/morality-you-are-what-you-read/

      This is the constant teaching of the Church, whose principles apply to all times, i.e., the modern era, the time of Shakespeare, the Middle Ages, time of pagan Rome, etc.! I think there tends to be some erroneous subjectivism going on in some of the comments. The truth is objective. Virtue and vice are objective truths, etc…What is sinful is an objective thing, not based on subjectivism.

      • Athanasius

        Thank you for your concern that I don’t fall into moral subjectivism; there is no sarcasm intended in my stating this; I mean it most sincerely, as I know that your concern is sincere.

        You refer me to Fr De-Lallo’s Note on Obscenity. Have you read what St Thomas More wrote about Luther? If so, what is your view of the language he used?

        • Therese

          Like you, I do not doubt your good will. However, you are wrong to suggest that obsenity, depending on time, circumstances and persons, may be tolerated and even taught to others.

          The reference I asked you to check is not Fr. DeLallo’s opinion, it is the solid and eternal teaching of the Church. Have you re-read it, and if so what do you think?

          As regards St. Thomas More’s words to Luther, the best I can say is that even saints in the making make mistakes on their way to sanctity. Perhaps St. Thomas, were he here today, would be the first to say that his language was a little immoderate at the time. I haven’t read what St. Thomas said but I doubt it is in the same league as the suggestive language and behaviour incorporated in Shakespeare’s work. And what a difference in intention also!!

          Please read that section I refered you to and let me know if it alters your opinion. I’m sure it will.

          • Athanasius

            I have quickly re-read the sections you refer to, and will set aside time to properly read them, and having mustered my thoughts I will get back to you; I have some items of Ikea furniture which I must try to assemble, and I must try to do this without using unladylike language in the process(!), but I will reply to you, this weekend. I would just ask you, in the meantime, to consider 3 points which colour my concern me about these matters:

            1. the great difference between the language we use today, and the language which was used 500 years ago (a very salient point which Christina mentioned above);

            2. how to ensure that we do not become tainted with Jansenism in our thinking.

            3. I also have to say that my knowledge of Shakespeare is limited to the few works which I had to study during further education, ie Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, The Tempest, Twelfth Night, and I have read The Taming of the Shrew and The Merchant of Venice. I did not discern anything vulgar or a danger to the faith in any of these plays,and yet you seem to be saying that a “blanket ban” of any of his works is necessary to ensure the faith of our children. Is that correct? Is that what you are suggesting?

            Oh, and all right, Point 4. I do not think that St Thomas was wrong in what he wrote about Luther (which you haven’t read). His language was certainly very strong, and in today’s language, vulgar, but the whole point is that in his day, it was not considered vulgar; strong, yes, earthy, yes, but they were earthy people; but it was not considered obscene – in those days.

            • Therese

              When you finally get seated in front of your computer again, on that cosy upside down IKEA chair you’ve just assembled (yes, the legs are supposed to be on the ground, not pointing up to the ceiling), here are my responses to your three points that became four.

              Point 1. As I stated earlier, to argue that obsenity in language and/or conduct is relative only to the age in which it is employed is a great error. Sin and vice are not subjective acts whose consequences are more or less serious depending on societal norms. No, sin and vice are objectively wrong and equally serious at all times and all places. The divine law does not alter with human taste and fashion. What was written into some of Shakespeare’s work was very impure in its time and can be equally impure in ours.

              Point 2. There is no risk of Jansenism when adhering to the moral teaching of the Church, as outlined in the ‘Catholic Moral Principles Concerning Literature’ article presented elsewhere on the blog by Fr. DeLallo. We know we are on safe ground when we stick by what the Church has always taught. The danger of deviating from that teaching, however, wrongly believing it to be too strict, is that we fall into the greater error of the aforementioned moral subjectivism.

              Point 3. I softened on the total ban on Shakespeare, if you recall, by preferring the superior insight of a solid, well educated Catholic mother who wrote:

              “I really think there’s too much of truth, beauty and excellence in Shakespeare to take him out of the curriculum! I think two things would be good: one, as the nuns used to do, they would black out inappropriate lines. Two, they would not have works that were inappropriate for the age. Some are altogether inappropriate for a Catholic of any age! But they may have to read them for college…I don’t think they would be an occasion of sin if one is on their guard and is sufficiently strong… There can be an advantage, in my opinion, in seeing his depictions of life and people, just as it is helpful to read discoveries from scientists on different things whether they are Catholic or not. But it would not be good to portray what is not Catholic (his bawdiness).”

              Point 4. Whatever the merits or demerits of St. Thomas’ choice of words to Luther, the question here is not so much about a few unfortunate vulgar words in a letter upholding the faith against a heretic as about a consistent employment of obsenity and impure suggestion in a series of theatrical works intended for general public consumption. There is not really a comparison between St. Thomas and Shakespeare, either in what they wrote or in what they intended. The argument is a red herring.

              I hope this, together with a re-read of those Catholic Principles, answers your concerns.

              • Athanasius

                Thank you for your patience; if only I had only an Ikea chair to assemble – those are the tasks of babes – try 2 bookcases.

                Anyhow, here is my reply.

                I realise that the position is one of SUBMISSION to the men and women holding authority in the Church.

                Whilst this goes against natural feelings and understanding (certainly, mine. which, of course, could be merely a manifestation of sinful pride), it ultimately means that Catholics are (as the old anti-Catholics always maintained) the subjects of the clergy in all aspects of their spiritual and intellectual lives.

                We are morally obliged to pre-submit all intellectual enquiry and leisure choices to our spiritual superiors (as for the time being).

                Thus, in 1960 it was sinful to pray in common with Protestants, now it is lawful to pray in common with animists (according the example of a recently sainted pope).

                Once it was sinful to read The Count of Monte Cristo, now it is not.

                I remain sceptical (or perhaps a better term would be “confused”), but obedient.

                • Therese

                  Your submission, albeit tentative, is admirable. I would just point out, However, for your comfort, that you do not submit so much to the teaching of Churchmen as to the Church. There is a very great difference between the two, as the tragic comparisons you quoted clearly demonstrate. We are quite safe with the teaching Fr. DeLallo recounts in his essay, I assure you.

  18. Summa

    No, there is no Calvinist spirit here. What has been presented throughout this thread in response to you and others is demonstrable evidence that Shakespeare was not only not Catholic but that his works present a danger to the minds and souls of young Catholics.

    I gave a fairly lengthy reply to you earlier in this debate showing that those who promote Shakespeare as Catholic do so on unfounded rumour and imprudent speculation. The actual historical evidence is there to prove that he was definitely not a Catholic. Your response to my comments was a one-liner insult relating to a surname misspelling. Now you present another one-liner to the effect that we who value the purity of young Catholic minds and souls are Calvinist.
    I am very disappointed with your display of bad manners. It is our duty as Catholics to debate maturely and respectfully, answering as best we can the observations and objections of others. To cut off an exchange mid-flow with an insult is not conducive to the edification and education of our neighbour. If you think my points are wrong then prove them wrong, that’s how Catholics are supposed to deal with each other.

    As regards the debate, Dr. David Allen White and company have raised Shakespeare to the level of a theologian, of that there is no doubt! There are many quotes from the Verbum to support this accusation as Dr. White has convinced many traditional seminarians (now priests) of the idea. They have elevated Shakespeare to such a degree that educated, conservative, and Traditional Catholics all think he is irreproachable and indispensible to the restoration of culture.

    Now that we see, in the full light of day, the attacks on the family and how the corruption of morals destroys the family, we can no longer dismiss Shakespeare’s obscenities or make excuses for them. He was part of a corrupt society yet did nothing to reform it morally. Quite the contrary!

    Even if were true that he had Catholic sympathies (which he did not), how can it be argued today that he is of any value in reforming modern society when he made no positive impact on the world of his own time? His personal life and his public life showed he was guilty of impurity…does not the Church teach that impurity is grievously wrong because of its social implications? I really think this is the point to be emphasised.

    I am prepared to defer to the observation of a very sound and well educated Catholic mother in the matter of teaching Shakespeare as part of the Catholic curriculum. Here’s what she says:

    “I really think there’s too much of truth, beauty and excellence in Shakespeare to take him out of the curriculum! I think two things would be good: one, as the nuns used to do, they would black out inappropriate lines. Two, they would not have works that were inappropriate for the age. Some are altogether inappropriate for a Catholic of any age! But they may have to read them for college…I don’t think they would be an occasion of sin if one is on their guard and is sufficiently strong… There can be an advantage, in my opinion, in seeing his depictions of life and people, just as it is helpful to read discoveries from scientists on different things whether they are Catholic or not. But it would not be good to portray what is not Catholic (his bawdiness).”

    That’s as far as any Catholic worthy of the name should go with Shakespeare. We should treat the man and his works with caution and appropriate censorship. Anything presented beyond that should give rise to grave suspicion that Cultural Marxism has perhaps made serious inroads into Traditional Catholic circles. We laugh that proposition off at our peril!

    • Athasnasius, I’m sorry that you found it insulting that I pointed out that you were misspelling Mr. Pearce’s surname.

      I also regret that you consider me ill mannered for not engaging in this discussion, specifically in not replying to your lengthy post.

      The fact is, for several reasons that I have seen developing, I have decided not to engage with this discussion.

      Firstly the thread has become a moving target. It started with a question regarding Shakespeare’s Catholicism, which then spawned into an exsa!mination of his moral worth. Two different things altogether. Some might view this as building a straw man.

      Secondly, I am deeply suspicious when I see good Catholic men, at the top of their literary game, suffer ad hominem attacks, in order to prop up the fragile case of the other side in this discussion.

      Thirdly, I sense on this thread a whiff of something akin to a Calvinist, Whiggish, Puritan air which I have not sensed before here.

      Finally, despite your rebuke for not doing my duty, I’m on holiday with my family and don’t have the time or inclination to slug this one out.

      All the best.

      • Summa,

        Methinks the gentleman doth protest too much!

        It is normal in any discussion to spread out into related issues so the question of whether or not Shakespeare was a Catholic is obviously informed by what you term “his moral worth” – that is, his beliefs and moral integrity.

        Re: the “insult” and “ill manners” – I think Athanasius was merely saying that it is frustrating to be corrected on something of secondary importance, in this context, while the entire content of his post was ignored. Personally, I’m used to being corrected by adults in all sort of ways although it is – in fact – elementary bad manners to correct another adult in such matters. I get told to “calm down” since I tend to be animated in discussion despite being perfectly calm inside. Another favourite is “slow down, don’t speak so fast” when half the time the person correcting me is either someone who speaks just as fast or, in one hilarious case, a friend who speaks painfully slowly which drives me crackers! It is very irritating indeed to be publicly corrected for such things, so I do understand Athanasius’ frustration when his entire comment is ignored in the interests of correcting a wrong spelling.

        Anyway, enjoy your holiday with your family. I suppose it’s pointless wishing you the best of weather, since you have that all the time over there, lucky you!

      • Summa

        I would suggest that if you are on holiday with your family and have “not the inclination” for this subject it would have been better for you not to post comments at all. There’s no point making what I call “hit and run” one-liners and then blaming it on everything and everyone else when others get annoyed.

        I assume the “good Catholic man, at the top of his literary game” you refer to is Dr. White. If so, then the suspicion falls on you not on me, bearing in mind Dr. White’s allegiance to Bishop Williamson. I have certainly made no ad hominem attacks on Dr. White, an accusation that I very strongly resent. I have questioned his spiritual discernment for a number of valid reasons, but at no point have I said he is personally of bad will. You sound like those homosexual lobbyists who cry “homophobia” every time someone calls that vice into question. You really should be careful what you accuse others of.

        As regards Shakespeare’s moral worth, I am shocked that you do not see how important that question is to the thread subject. This, again, is what I mean about spiritual discernment. We don’t need to condemn the man but we do need to know what manner of man he was in life and what underlay the thought behind his works. Basic stuff, Summa.

        Concerning that “whiff of something akin to Calvanist, Whiggish, Puritan air..” you say you sense on this thread, I suggest you read the section “Note on Obsenity” in Fr. DeLallo’s presentation of Church teaching ‘Catholic Moral Principles in Literature, Here: https://catholictruthblog.com/2016/09/10/morality-you-are-what-you-read/

        I will be most surprised if you maintain the Calvanist line when you have refreshed your memory on what the Church actually teaches. Morality is objective truth that does not alter with time and place. Again, basic stuff.

  19. Athanasius

    I really think you are being unjust to Summa in suggesting that his/her remark is “bad manners”,and this is not at all like you. Whilst some of us clearly do not agree with your opinion in this matter, and your suggestion that as a result we are victims of Cultural Marxism, I don’t think you are being bad mannered in expressing that opinion. Please don’t take umbrage at Summa’s lighthearted remark about Calvinistic thinking; s/he is entitled to that too, surely?

    • Therese,

      Summa is a “he” – a “he” who has attended Mass in our chapel in Glasgow, and had tea with us in the tearoom, before flying back to sunny Australia.

      I think Athanasius’s mention of bad manners is due to the fact that, although Athanasius had submitted a lengthy reply to one of Summa’s posts, Summa responded simply to point out that Athanasius had misspelt Joseph Pearce’s name. That would irritate me, I have to admit. Not terribly important in the great scheme of things but rather uncalled for and perhaps calculated to irritate. So, I’d cut Athanasius a bit of slack there – he doesn’t usually, as you say, make comments about manners, but in this case, I can (as they say, most ungrammatically, just about everywhere these days) see where he’s coming from!

      Still, Summa won’t be able to get me on spelling. I NEVER make spelling misteaks. NEVER!

  20. Athanasius had misspelt Mr Pearce’s name 5 times and I felt it appropriate to point that out. I had no sinister motivation in doing so. Believe me, I am far too busy to cause trouble: I usually try to avoid it!
    Not terribly important in the scheme of things, I agree, but if you are going to discuss someone, then it’s only fair to use their name properly.
    Doing otherwise Ed, can be construed as being designed to irritate or despise.
    That’s the trouble with the internet, so much jumping to conclusions, baseless accusations, misunderstandings and lack of awareness of the circumstances of others.
    Anyway moving on…

    For the record, I think I met Athanasius in Glasgow after Mass did I not? He seems like a decent chap, although I must admit that I was a little perplexed why he wasn’t rushing off to thee Celtic game like I was!

  21. I always always expressed sympathy with the view that Shakespeare was a Catholic, although this has been chiefly in a petty attempt to annoy Anglicans, rather than as the result of rigorous research. Ha ha!

    The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, previously said that he thinks Shakespeare was a Catholic but not a particularly devout one.

    This thread inspired me to do a little reading and, although I am no big fan of Fr Dwight Longenecker, he wrote an article in 2015 claiming, among other things, that Shakespeare was from a recusant family, probably had a Catholic wedding and that his daughter, Susanna, was known to be a Catholic.

    See here:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2015/05/ten-reasons-why-shakespeare-was-catholic.html

    • Gabriel Syme,

      Fr. Dwight Longenecker is not the first to propose such specualtion about Shakespeare, nor will he be the last. The actual historical evidence demonstrates that he was at best an apostate Catholic and at worst (more likely) a non-pacticing Anglican. Those who idly speculate about Shakespeare’s supposed Catholicism can never get around recorded history, which shows him to be Anglican.

  22. Athanasius says…

    What has been presented throughout this thread in response to you and others is demonstrable evidence that Shakespeare was not only not Catholic but that his works present a danger to the minds and souls of young Catholics.

    Then…

    The actual historical evidence demonstrates that he was at best an apostate Catholic and at worst (more likely) a non-pacticing Anglican.

    Glad to see you’re moving in the right direction 🙂

    And thanks for all the suggestions above 🙂

    Let’s keep it civilised 🙂

    • Summa

      That was not a good choice of words for me to have included in my comment. That’s what comes of responding to people’s comments in the middle of a busy working day. You’re lucky to be relaxing on holiday with lots of time on your hands. Anway, here’s my clarification. The man is not for turning!!

      I do not accept under any circumstances that Shakespeare was Catholic. The historical evidence demonstrates the fact conclusively for me. It was not my intention to suggest that the evidence so much as hints that Shakespeare may have been Catholic, it doesn’t.

      What I meant to say was that for those who mistakenly champion the man as a Catholic hero, even if they could prove his Catholicism, which not one of them can, would only mean that he was at best an apostate and therefore to be very much frowned upon by Catholics faithful to the Church.

      As for “let’s keep it civilised”. I hope I have always tried to maintain respect and good manners when debating with others. I haven’t yet had anyone accuse me of lacking civility.

  23. Summa

    Here’s a challenge for you. Show me just one piece of sound historical evidence that Dr. White and others have produced, that seriously counters what the recorded facts state about Shakespeare’s religious affiliation, and I will back off from my entrenched position. If you cannot do this then you cannot in good conscience continue to argue for the Catholicism of Shakespeare. Is that fair?

    So far it has been my historical facts against their hysterical speculation. Can you make the difference by producing something more solid than rumour and wishful thinking?

  24. Therese

    I thought this update to Fr. DeLallo’s blog essay on Catholic Moral Principles.. may be of use in further explaining my position. It was too late to include the update in the original blog thread but I think it is useful information.

    “A. Portrayal of Virtue and Vice in Literature: It is true that classic literature often praises and exalts virtue by contrasting it with examples of immoral behavior. Since the Church has always warned against reading literature that would be a near (or proximate) occasion of sin, it follows that students should avoid those literary stories that contain obscenity.

    As noted above, “books or other writings contain obscenity when they inculcate or recommend impure acts, or advise how these may be committed; when they treat sins of impurity or narrate immoral facts or stories in such a manner as to make vice seem alluring or pardonable to the intended reader; when an erotic composition by language, allusions, details, sympathetic treatment, etc., gives prominence to animal passion.”

    Sometimes there are classic literary works that contain some inappropriate texts, but have such a great degree of excellence in the portrayal of truth, goodness and beauty, that it seems unfitting to remove them from the school curriculum. In such cases, these works may be read – especially if they are required reading for college – provided that all inappropriate texts are blacked out (expurgated), and that no writings are used that are inappropriate for the age of the students.

    As Pope Leo XIII says in his Apostolic Constitution, “Officiorum ac Munerum,” Jan. 25, 1897: “Classical works of ancient or more recent authors, if they are infected with this stain of turpitude, on account of the elegance and perfection of their style are permitted only to those who are excused by reason of their office or teaching; but on no account are they to be given to youths or young men to translate or read, unless they have been carefully expurgated.”

    • Thanks Athanasius. I do find this whole thing difficult to accept in total, but that’s my problem. If we were only talking about sheltering the youth from unsavoury and impure writings, I would completely agree, but, anyway….. as the Bard himself said: Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.

      • Therese

        I think the principle question at the outset was whether or not Shakespeare was Catholic. That was the original poser and I think it has been established by the facts that he was not. His writings were a separate issue, though obviously tied in with the principle question.

  25. Would have been hard for Shakespeare to have appeared unambiguously Catholic, given the penal times in which Catholics then lived; and the influence of the Presbyterians (aka Calvinists aka Puritans). England was only 20 years away from losing its Catholic mentality when he was writing the bulk of his plays, a mentality that has lasted a good fifty years after the Elizabethan Settlement. Why be too hard on him?

    Another English writer was most definitely a Catholic, and here is the proof – my favourite passage from his General Prologue of the Canterbury Tales:

    A good man was ther of religioun,
    And was a povre PERSOUN OF A TOUN,
    But riche he was of hooly thoght and werk.
    He was also a lerned man, a clerk,
    That Cristes gospel trewely wolde preche;
    His parisshens devoutly wolde he teche.
    Benynge he was, and wonder diligent,
    And in adversitee ful pacient,
    And swich he was ypreved ofte sithes.
    Ful looth were hym to cursen for his tithes,
    But rather wolde he yeven, out of doute,
    Unto his povre parisshens aboute
    Of his offryng and eek of his substaunce.
    He koude in litel thyng have suffisaunce.
    Wyd was his parisshe, and houses fer asonder,
    But he ne lefte nat, for reyn ne thonder,
    In siknesse nor in meschief to visite
    The ferreste in his parisshe, muche and lite,
    Upon his feet, and in his hand a staf.
    This noble ensample to his sheep he yaf,
    That first he wroghte, and afterward he taughte.
    Out of the gosple he tho wordes caughte,
    And this figure he added eek therto,
    That if gold ruste, what shal iren do?
    For if a preest be foul, on whom we truste,
    No wonder is a lewed man to ruste;
    And shame it is, if a prest take keep,
    A shiten shepherde and a clene sheep.
    Wel oghte a preest ensample for to yive,
    By his clennesse, how that his sheep sholde lyve.
    He sette nat his benefice to hyre
    And leet his sheep encombred in the myre
    And ran to Londoun unto Seinte Poules
    To seken hym a chaunterie for soules,
    Or with a bretherhed to been witholde;
    But dwelt at hoom, and kepte wel his folde,
    So that the wolf ne made it nat myscarie;
    He was a shepherde and noght a mercenarie.
    And though he hooly were and vertuous,
    He was to synful men nat despitous,
    Ne of his speche daungerous ne digne,
    But in his techyng discreet and benygne;
    To drawen folk to hevene by fairnesse,
    By good ensample, this was his bisynesse.
    But it were any persone obstinat,
    What so he were, of heigh or lough estat,
    Hym wolde he snybben sharply for the nonys.
    A bettre preest I trowe, that nowher noon ys.
    He waited after no pompe and reverence,
    Ne maked him a spiced conscience,
    But Cristes loore, and Hise apostles twelve
    He taughte, but first he folwed it hymselve.

    How beautiful, both in composition and content!

    • Benedict Carter

      The martyrs, both of the early Christian times and of the Elizabethan times, could have taken the compromising route of Shakespeare (had he been Catholic, which he was not), so accommodation for the sake of career doesn’t really hold water. Our Lord sacrificed His life for us, so we cannot put career and reputation before Him. It doesn’t work like that!

      • There you go, Athanasius, at your pompous best. As if YOU know whether Shakespeare was a Catholic or not! Just stop with the sermons, okay?

        • Benedcit Carter

          If you can’t respond with genuine contradictory evidence then please don’t respond at all. Insults are not facts, they’re just signs that someone has lost the argument.

          By the way, recorded history tells us clearly that Shakespeare was not Catholic. What makes you or anyone else think differently? The speculative theories of so-called literature experts? Sorry, that doesn’t counter historically recorded fact.

          • Athanasius,

            I’ve now removed a personal (rude) comment about you from Benedict Carter, but there is no point in removed the one to which you have replied.

            I suggest to all bloggers that you ignore any personal remarks in posts and when I see them I will delete that part of the comment, or an entire comment if necessary.

            As Athanasius rightly says, hurling insults is simply a sign that someone has lost the argument. Stick to the argument, and I’ll remove any insults when I see them.

            Thank you.

  26. Athnasius, I apologise to you, and to other yawning bloggers, for going back to your last post addressed to me (Oct. 2, 6.30pm.). It is a post dealing with two of (presumably my) ‘ideas’. I could not get wifi where I have been for the past several days.

    You said: “The first is the idea that back in the days of Shakespeare the people were more coarse and earthy in their everyday language and therefore less sensitive to obsenity and impurity than we are in these so-called times of intellectual refinement.”

    Nowhere in this thread have I expressed an opinion (though I have some) about the lack of sensitivity of Shakespeare’s contemporaries to ‘obcenity and impurity’. Nor have I suggested that we are living in times of ‘intellectual refinement’.

    You seem to have overlooked, or to have forgotten, what I plainly said I was specifically referring to, namely scatological words used in everyday language in Shakespeare’s day, which are not now used in polite language. This was underlined by a reference to Thomas More’s repeated use of such a word in one of his polemics. I called such language ‘earthy’, and in usage I distinguish between ‘earthy’ and ‘raunchy’, the latter referring to sexual vulgarity rather than scatalogical. I do realise that modern synonym dictionaries might conflate these terms, as you seem to have done, but I avoided that ugly word, and hoped I was making myself clear in context.

    Laura, I think, took the discussion as one about ‘raunchiness’, following on from your comments, and was horrified by what she found. I have since checked some of these disgusting ‘translations’ and I, too, was horrified and suggest that they are the works of corrupt sex-obsessed modern minds finding filth where it doesn’t exist. Having read every passage quoted as a student, and also later in life, and having seen the plays on the stage, every reference given by these ‘translators’ has passed over me as innocuous, and probably is. Perhaps the aim is to spice up the bard to make him more appealing to this sex-obsessed age. Last week my sister saw Cymbeline, and was disgusted that the director, fired up by the current popular perversion, had turned Cymbeline into Cymbelina, and ‘transgendered’ other characters as well. Perhaps Shakespeare will get the blame for that, too!

    As for these times of ‘intellectual refinement’, well, I was speaking of the olden pre-60s days when I studied Shakespeare, and we were all, I assure you, most intellectually and morally refined (!).

    The other idea, I think, although you say it with your usual admirable politeness, is that I’m a moral relativist because I disagree with Pope Leo XIII’s call for expurgation of obscene words and passages in literature. Moral relativism is: ‘… the position that moral or ethical propositions do not reflect objective and/or universal moral truths, but instead make claims relative to social, cultural, historical or personal circumstances. By no stretch of the imagination can Pope Leo’s teaching on expurgation fit into the definition of ‘an objective or universal moral truth’! It was a good piece of practical advice in his day when children had no means, lacking a huge reference library and time, to supplant the missing word. Now any functionally literate child can find the missing word in seconds, so expurgation would simply fuel prurient curiosity. Some mere situations like this do change with time and require different forms of action. This is not MORAL relativism.

    A further point re Shakespeare’s perceived obscenity. Father DeLallo wrote:

    “… books or other writings contain obscenity when they inculcate or recommend impure acts, or advise how these may be committed; when they treat sins of impurity or narrate immoral facts or stories in such a manner as to make vice seem alluring or pardonable to the intended reader; when an erotic composition by language, allusions, details, sympathetic treatment, etc., gives prominence to animal passion.”

    Bloggers very familiar with Shakespeare’s work, as opposed to those who are guided by the opinions of others or modern ‘translations’ may judge for themselves if his works fit such a description. Many modern works certainly do.

    In addition to this I must comment on the following claims made in the course of your post:

    ‘I do not accept that Catholics, and even the first Protestants of the period under discussion, were desensitised to earthy and obsence conversation and behaviour. Religious faith and grace were far more abundant for so ill-refined a culture to have existed in thsoe days.
    …The people of those times were far more sensitive in their souls to obsenity and impurity, by reason of faith and the grace of God, than they are today. ..Shakespeare’s world was a world of Revealed moral truths which one contravened upon the peril of one’s immortal soul. Oh yes, they were far more refined in mind and conscience than the people of today, and consequently more acutely conscious of obscene and impure language.’

    WHAT?? Sorces for this please!! Shakespeare was born in 1564. Pope Paul III (1534 -49) had appointed a Commission to examine the state of the Church and in 1540 St. Ignatius Loyola had founded the Jesuits to assist the Pope in reforming a Church in which Popes and Cardinals had become too worldly, bribery to gain Church office was widespread, as was nepotism, monasteries had lost their discipline, impurity was rife in the ranks of the hierarchy and clergy and the selling of indulgences was wiely abused. Members of the curia resisted the reforms, and it wasn’t until 1545 that the Council of Trent was convened “…to extirpate so many most destructive heresies, to reform morals and restore ecclesiastical discipline”. So there are the words of the papal Bull in confirmation of all this. Also, the Council itself acknowledged that Luther’s revolt had been prompted ‘ by the ambition, avarice and cupidity of clergy’. It condemned abuses including the holding of several cathedral churches by one bishop, the bestowing of favours on relatives and having mistresses. It abolished the sale of indulgences, and called for Church leaders to avoid the smallest of faults.

    The Council ended in 1563, and with it came the start of the Counter-Reformation when great sinners were replaced by great saints and the Catholic laity gradually became fit for the description you applied to the earlier age – impossibly, given the corruption of clergy and customs exposed and tackled at Trent. We know all too well what happens to the sheep when the shepherds abandon them.

    • Christina

      The question that introduced this thread was: “Was William Shaespeare A Catholic”

      I think the answer to that question, given what historical evidence still remains, is that he was not a Catholic, but a non-practicing Anglican.

      As for your other points, I would respectfully suggest we leave it there since we are not going to agree. I completely agree with the Church teaching presented in Fr. DeLallo’s essay, but it seems you have reservations about it.

      The one thing I would point out is that by the time Shakespeare became a young adult, that holy counter-Reformation you refer to was well under way in the Church and in society. He was born one year after Trent, according to your supplied dates. So by your own timeline you surely confirm these words of mine:

      “..Shakespeare’s world was a world of Revealed moral truths which one contravened upon the peril of one’s immortal soul. Oh yes, they were far more refined in mind and conscience than the people of today, and consequently more acutely conscious of obscene and impure language.’”

      • “Religious faith and grace were far more abundant for so ill-refined a culture to have existed in those days.”

        Have you ever studied, Athanasius, the pilgrim songs of the High Middle Ages, the period at which the Catholic Faith was at its highest? Clearly not, for you would then be aware that the bulk of the people were as earthy as any we see today. And why shouldn’t they have been? Death, illness, violence and the passions were just as much of their lives as they are today in ours.

        You fool yourself if you think our Anglo-Saxon forebears (for instance) were any different, despite their great Saints who converted the pagan Dutch, Germans and others, their great Catholic Kings such as Aelfred and Aethelstan, their great churchmen. Indeed, every filthy word today in the English language is pure Anglo-Saxon. Every one.

        I contend that Catholicism goes together with a certain earthiness: in fact this shouldn’t surprise us at all, given that the Catholic mentality recognises and welcomes reality, and these things surely are part of reality, even if not one of a highly-sensitive nature or what you might call “cultured”.

        • BCJC

          I’ve debated this subject to death but suffice it to say I don’t particularly care for your view of the Church and Catholics as generally comfortable with “earthy”, (meaning obsene) language. That’s not a Church or people I recognise today or from history.

          You’re right to say that Catholics and the Church welcome “reality”, but it’s the reality of grace, of sin, or virtue and the lack thereof, not acceptance of sinful and obsene language because we’re realists. No, we understand that it goes on but we may never approve it, much less participate. This is the true teaching of the Church and the saints.

          • Fallen human nature and redeemed, ennobled human nature are in some ways, like love and hate, very close together; even two sides of the same coin. This can be clearly seen in Shakespeare’s work.

  27. Shakespeare’s use of a certain lewdness, an earthiness, is for me a fact that makes his Catholicism more, not less, likely.

    • Bencjcarter,

      What a strange observation. Just as well it’s wrong or it would send out very bad signals about the Catholic Church.

      There is historical evidence that Shakespeare was not Catholic. Not one person who disagrees with that has been able to bring forward contradictory evidence (by which I mean historical fact). This tells me that those who maintain the argument that Shakespeare was Catholic are not acting objectively.

      • Hardly strange. It’s self-evident when one looks at Italian, Spanish, Latin American and other Catholic cultures.

        It was also very much the same in pre-Reformation England. I merely point out the reality of popular culture in Catholic societies, where people can look sex and so on “in the eye”, which those cultures who have been through the Calvinistic mill actually cannot. The modern descent from license to licentiousness is a different matter altogether.

        I discussed this “Catholic earthiness” with a former parish priest on skype this evening. He, a missionary priest with several countries behind him and a great knowledge of Church history, agreed with me completely.

        • Benedict,

          So you found a priest who agreed with you completely about “Catholic earthiness….Catholic societies…where people can look sex and so on in the eye…”

          A Catholic priest who is completely at ease with sex-obsessed societies… Now there’s a surprise!

          • Disgraceful reply. The man I am referring to is a monk who is wholly orthodox in doctrine and who, though living far away from his mother house, lives a disciplined religious life.

            • Benedict Carter

              my advice would be to beware anyone, priest, religious or lay, who tells you that the Church is ok with the faithful looking sex in the eye. That notion flies in the face of everything the Church teaches about fallen human nature. It’s not Calvinistic to hold to the Church’s teaching in this matter, it’s fidelity and having an understanding of occasions of sin.

              I do know that the liberals introduced this new concept of looking sex in the eye after the Vatican II revolution, and with devastating effects. Read Fr. DeLallo’s essay somewhere else on this blog and you’ll see the danger.

              Regarding impurity of any kind, St. Pau said: “do not let it so much as be named among you, as becometh saints”. That’s a far cry from looking sex straight in the eye!

    • Summa,

      Your post of 12.13am today went into moderation, probably because you have signed in with a different email address – your avatar is attached to your email address in use when you created the avatar, so I presume that – since your avatar has not appeared – you have used different log in details this time. Hence, your post is way down the sidebar. My apologies.

      I look forward to reading your link later – I will be away from my computer for most of today, so I recommend that you log in with your avatar email address if you post again, to make sure that you don’t languish in moderation until my return 😀

    • Summa

      Are you having me on?

      All Joseph Pearce does in the linked article is scorn the evidence leaning towards Shakespeare’s indifferent Anglicanism without providing a single shred of reliable alternative evidence. It’s one thing claim that there are many authoitative sources who say this, that and the other in favour of Shakespeare’s Catholicism, but it’s all just so much waffle when quotations and sources are absent.

      You’ll really have to do much better than that linked article if you want to demonstrate that the historical record on Shakespeare’s religous affiliation is wrong.

      Oh yes, and I didn’t read anything in Mr. Pearce’s article denying Shakespeare playing godfather to his Anglican friend’s child at an Anglican baptism. That’s forbidden by the Catholic Church, so it is quite a crucial piece of information.

      • Well, I don’t know that Joseph Pearce is having anyone on. I’m not that interested in Shakespeare’s religion, BTW, but there shouldn’t be any worry about sources if what Pearce is saying is common knowledge. What he said makes sense for that period in time when Catholicism was outlawed, so I wouldn’t dismiss his article out of hand. He makes a very good point about the Catholic Encyclopaedia being well out of date. That’s a very bad sign for the academic worth of the contents.

        I think this article is very balanced and historic, although it doesn’t come down either for or against Shakespeare’s Catholicism but leaves the question open, which is all that anyone can do, really. https://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/05/shakespeares-religion

      • Athanasius
        I don’t have to do any better. If you’re prejudice is so bloated as to say that Mr Pearce provides no evidence, then I doubt anything will convince you of the contrary. Anyway, I’ll leave you to your fancies.

        • Summa

          Rather than leave me to my supposed “fancies”, you should really demonstrate to me where I missed the evidence presented by Mr. Pearce. All I read in the linked article was an attempt to rubbish historically recorded fact with what I will generously call speculation. Yes, there was a lot of talk about superior evidence, yet none was presented.

          That’s not what I call a sustainable case for Shakespeare’s (imagined) Catholicism. Historically recorded evidence always takes precedence.

          But there is also the evidence of the impure suggestiveness in his plays. Regardless of the times and “earthiness” of the people, no true Catholic bard would have written that stuff into his works.

          Some may think I am making too much of this but they should consider what has been written elsewhere on this blog about conditioning minds and souls to gradually become familiar with lewdness, obsenity and impurity in literature, as well as in everyday life. It starts with baby steps, as did the conciliar revolution, until little by little every last remnant of goodness and virtue has been compromised. I hope all will see what I’m getting at here. We need to be very vigilant. I suspect the desperation in some to have Shakespeare declared Catholic has a more sinister motive underlying it. The man was hardly a martyr for the Catholic Faith, after all.

    • Summa, interesting that when I cited Fr. Thurston’s work on the paranormal in another thread, some bloggers assiduously searched for information that would, they thought, discredit him and so justify the dismissing of his opinions on anything and everything to do with the subject. Yet now some are happily trusting his expertise in a subject in which, even in his lifetime, he was regarded as less of an authority!

  28. Athanasius

    I suspect the desperation in some to have Shakespeare declared Catholic has a more sinister motive underlying it.

    That is pretty shocking Athanasius. So you are suggesting Mr Pearce and others of his ilk are promoting Shakespeare as a Catholic for sinister motives?

    Time to move on, knowing I am likely through pride to sin in response.

    Reverend Cajetan Mary da Bergamo – It is necessary to be humble not only in one’s thoughts but in one’s words, because the humble man says little, following the counsel of the Holy Ghost: “Speak not anything rashly: let thy words be few.” [Eccles v, 1] To talk much proceeds from pride, because we are persuaded that we know a great deal and we wish to impress our thoughts and opinions on the minds of others.

    Recollect yourself now interiorly, and examine yourself, and having found that under one or other of these headings pride really dominates you, judge how necessary it is for you to fight against it with humility, because if pride is conquered, a host of other sins will be conquered also. And in order to give yourself courage remember this, that before the tribunal of God the proud will be condemned, and only the humble can hope to find mercy. To say that we are humble is the same as to say that we are amongst the elect and shall be saved; and to say that we are proud is the same as to say we are reprobate and lost. “Pride is a sure sign of the reprobate, as humility is the sign of the elect.” [Hom. 7 in Evang.; et lib. 3, Mor. cap xviii] We owe this conclusion to St. Gregory. Praised be Jesus Christ.

    • Summa

      Thank you for the reminder of how dangerous pride is. Yes, we are all surely affected by it to some degree or other. If you are more humble than me then thank God for the grace. But beware also, for it is when one realises that he is more humble than his neighbour that he stands in greater peril of losing, in an instant, all humility.

      Since we are all affected by pride, I’ll make a deal with you. Don’t you accuse me of pride and I won’t accuse you. Let us just understand that we are all prone to pride. The so-called great Catholic intellectuals have to be particularly careful of this inclination, as the conciliar revolution amply demonstrates.

      As for name dropping in my previous comment, I was very careful not to name particular individuals, so it is actually you who are suggesting Mr. Pearce’s name, not I. My advice was general not personal. Again, take the Modernist theological experts who planned and executed the post-Vatican II reformation. These intellectuals put themselves forward as the holiest of men with the noblest of intentions. The majority saw no reason to doubt or question them and look what happened. St. Pius X warned about these infiltrators and was mocked for it. It seems we never learn even to err on the side of caution.

      Now, are you or are you not prepared to offer some real historical evidence to counter that which is recorded of Shakespeare’s Anglican beliefs. I’m not interested in speculation, even if the speculators are hailed as great men of literature. I base all my conclusions on facts alone, always have done. It’s safer that way.

    • Summa,

      I think it might help cool the air here if I mention that it is my understanding that Athanasius is aware of a teacher (two in fact) who used Shakespeare to undermine morals in the classroom. Having engaged in some limited study of some of Shakespeare’s plays myself, albeit many moons ago, I was puzzled as to how this could be done, but having read the contemporary translations of some of the more “bawdy” comments, posted by another blogger, whose name escapes me at the moment and I don’t have time to trawl, I am guessing that those teachers have used the contemporary very crude translations in the classroom – a stupid and entirely unnecessary thing to do, but typical of the “we must make everything relevant, pupils must understand this at first reading” mentality which prevails in educational practise today. Personally, I (in my ignorance!) did not read any crudity in Shakespeare, and I don’t think most people do, in fact. I remember being astonished the first time I heard the claim that Shakespeare contained sexually explicit references – they had either passed me by, or I’d been reading the wrong plays. Or should that be the “right” plays 😀

      Anyway, the topic here is whether or not Shakespeare was a Catholic. My own knowledge on this is very limited, but judging from the few TV discussions I’ve heard, and the articles posted here, it seems that there is no definite answer available to satisfy everyone. The Catholic Encyclopaedia seems very clear but then it appears to be out of date, and thus has not taken account of later (than 1912) research. That is a weakness. From the available literature and historical information, we can only speculate. It is not, in any event, a matter of Faith. It is a matter of opinion and personal judgment for teachers/heads of school, if they are convinced that his writings are too sexually explicit to use in a classroom. Unless, however, teachers provide contemporary translations of his character’s bawdy remarks, I doubt very much if many students would realise their significance.

      It’s certainly not something that is worth falling out over, gentlemen, so let’s leave aside all talk of pride. It’s difficult enough for me, knowing that I’m the only really humble person on the blog, if not the planet, to see accusations and counter accusations of pride flying around… 😀

      According to some commentators, Shakespeare was (or at least died) a Catholic, others disagree and the connections with the new (Anglican) religion seem to rule out his Catholicism. However, were Joseph Pearce’s claims to turn out to be true, that it was quite usual for recusants to use the Anglican churches as a cover during that period of anti-Catholicism, we’d have to reconsider. I don’t know enough about all of that, to come to a considered view, although I plan to do some reading on the subject asap.

      For now, let’s stand a sing two verses of Peace, Perfect Peace (no, Summa, NOT Pearce, Perfect Pearce)!

  29. Editor

    I would ask everyone involved in the promotion of Shakespeare as a recusant Catholic to consider whether it is permissible for Catholics to give even the outward appearance of having rejected the true religion during times of persecution?

    We know from the record of the early Christian martyrs that many of them could have spared their own lives by simply complying with a State demand to burn a grain of incense before the pagan gods, yet they would not countenance such a thing and suffered terrible deaths as a result.

    Some early Christians, however, through fear, did succumb and were duly excommunicated for their treachery. There is evidence that some of these eventually returned to the faith having repented and carried out very strict penances.

    So it seems from the earliest persecutions that compromise with religious error, even superficially, was condemned as a betrayal of Our Lord and the Truth.

    Did not Our Lord Himself say: “All who confess me before men, I will confess before my Father in heaven. Those who deny me before men, I will deny before my Father in heaven.”?

    At a time when many English Catholics bore with heroism the penalties for not conforming to the new religion, including martyrdom, are we to accept that Shakespeare chose the better path by appearing publicly as a conformist Protestant while harbouring Catholicism in his heart? Would such a compromise be acceptable to God? If so, what does it say of those brave souls who refused to conform and suffered for it? What does it say about St. Thomas More, St. John Fisher and the martyrs of Tyburn, for example? Did they sacrifice their lives for the Faith unnecessarily?

    Let me put it another way: What would we say today to someone who claimed to be a Traditional Catholic at heart but who nevertheless, for the sake of avoiding persecution and isolation, went along publicly with the post-conciliar revolution with all its liturgical and sacramental abuses? Would we praise such a person as a Catholic worthy of respect and emulation? Wouldn’t we rather condemn such cowardice in the face of adversity?

    I’m very surprised that those who stand in Shakespeare’s corner today have not weighed this central issue.

    I suppose the question, then, is not so much one of Shakespeare’s Catholicism or absence thereof as it is whether or not Catholics are free before God to subscribe publicly to a heretical religion while remaining united to the Church in their heart. It seems to me that it would be preferable that Shakespeare was a convinced Protestant, as the evidence indicates, than a Catholic coward. His judgment surely would have been lighter before God.

    • Athanasius,

      I’m not standing in anyone’s corner. I am simply trying to weigh the evidence, without, as you appear to think, condoning any “cover up” by pretending to go along with the new Protestantism at the Reformation.

      This is not a thread to discuss whether or not Shakespeare should be canonised. If he did take cover with the new Anglicans, then that would certainly rule him out.

      I’m simply looking at what everyone is saying and interested in discovering whether or not there were Catholics who did what Joseph Pearce claims.

      That wouldn’t make them Catholic heroes, and, personally, I am sick and tired of weak and ignorant Catholics today who prefer to sit tight and wait for the crisis to pass rather than stand up and be counted, given that nobody is demanding their blood, unlike, during the early days of Christianity and the Reformation period, so I’m with you on that.

      A fairly recent example will illustrate my point. Petrus offered a complimentary ticket to a young priest of the archdiocese who is (I’m told, but doubt it) supportive of Catholic Truth. Flatly turned it down, despite the fact that there were at least three priests (“in good standing”) publicly advertised who would be attending, two of them speakers, plus one of his Glasgow brother priests participating in the final Q & A. Cowardly concern for his own personal standing within the archdiocese, I presume, trumped supporting the only group in Scotland which is all-out fighting for the restoration of the traditional Faith in this country. So, believe me, I have not a lot of sympathy for those who take cover.

      The fact remains that there may well have been Catholics who went along (outwardly) with the new religion in order, in their misguided judgement, to keep the Faith. Some would call that prudence, but as you say, the early Christians and the martyrs, like Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher at the Reformation, were entirely “imprudent” in that respect. Whether or not Shakespeare is to be counted among those “prudent” Catholics is the question. Not whether he should be canonised.

      I hope that clarifies my position. Which is standing right in front of that cupboard where my final two chocolates are hidden!

  30. Editor,

    Keep your hair on! That comment wasn’t meant for you, it was a general comment for all to ponder. I didn’t think for a second that you were siding with anyone, your post is clear on that.

    Anyway, they reason for the comment was that, regardless of the truth of Shakespeare’s religious affiliation, we don’t want Catholic teachers holding him up beside the martyr saints as a great Catholic leterary figure who offers an alternative under persecution to the ‘neurotic’ extremists who stupidly surrendered their lives when they didn’t really have to. It’s that message which must be suppressed utterly.

    • Oh, I see I suppose it was the salutation (“Editor”) at the start which made me think you were addresing moi!

      You needn’t worry about Catholic teachers speaking about martyrdom at the Reformation. Archbishop Oscar Romero is about as far as their understanding of “martyrdom” stretches. The rest were just standing up for religious freedom! Gimme strength!

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