Friday, February 03, 2006

William Shakespeare: Catholic playwright

Spero News | William Shakespeare: Catholic playwright:'s an article that goes to great depths in its analysis of Hamlet, attempting to extract evidence for or against the case for Shakespeare's Catholicism. What makes it even more interesting is that it looks at multiple versions of the play and compares notes over how and where it changed. This includes an almost entirely different version of "To be or not to be":
"To be, or not to be: ay, there's the point.
To die, to sleep: is that all? Ay, all.
No to sleep, to dream: ay marry, there it goes.
For in that dream of death, when we awake,
And borne before an everlasting judge,
From whence no passenger ever returned,
The undiscovered country at whose sight
The happy smile and the accursed damned -

I have no time to read this all now but I'm definitely bookmarking it for study. I've just noticed something very interesting. There is a big gaping question that many people have with the speech as it is traditionally known -- why does Hamlet use the expression "The undiscovered country from which no traveller returns" when in fact his father has come back and told him all about it? But in this version of the speech the differences are important -- borne before an everlasting judge, from whence no passenger ever returned, the undiscovered country at whose sight the happy smile and the accursed damned. So here he's explicitly saying to go before God and get into Heaven. But his father was actually in Purgatory. So it is correct to say that he did not return from Heaven. I suppose then the question would be whether someone in Purgatory has supposedly already gone before God and been judged. I honestly don't know.

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1 comment:

Alan K.Farrar said...

Three questions:

A. What evidence is there for Shakespeare's religious beliefs?

B. Shakespeare was a Catholic, what evidence can we find to support this?

C. There is a conspiracy against catholics, so what arguement can we present to prove Shakespeare was a Catholic?

This article falls firmly into the last question, and includes an awful lot of polemic based on very dodgy ground. (For example, there is no firm evidence whatsoever supporting the idea that Shakespeare ever even taught let alone taught in a Catholic Houshold - in this article it is stated as a truth).

A much more reasoned arguement is made at this site:
based on a TV series made by less partisan historian - although firmly a B question.

Question A leads to some very different answers.