The literature on Shakespeare being a Catholic keeps mounting. Clare Asquith’s book Shadowplay along with the scholarship of Fr.Peter Milward started the ball rolling, then Joseph Pearce’s excellent, The Quest for Shakespeare gathered all the evidence together in a rollicking good read and the PBS documentary In Search of Shakespeare made it visual.
Now some mysterious evidence has emerged in the Venerable English College in Rome. You can read the article here and the Times reports here. They have found some documents that might have Shakespeare’s name on them, indicating that during his ‘lost years’ from 1585 – 1592 he was in Rome, and if in Rome was he studying for the priesthood? Probably not since the entries are in a guestbook. It could be that if this is Shakespeare, it consolidates other evidence that he remained a Catholic and that he was networking through the Catholic contacts on the continent.
A leather parchment kept by the college is signed by “Arthurus Stratfordus Wigomniensis” in 1585, “Shfordus Cestriensis” in 1587 and “Gulielmus Clerkue Stratfordiensis” in 1589. The college believes these signatures are: “(King) Arthur’s (compatriot) from Stratford (in the diocese) of Worcester,” “Sh(akespeare from Strat)ford (in the diocese) of Chester” and “William the Clerk from Stratford”.
As it happens, I’ve produced the outline of a screenplay called The Shakespeare Plot. In it Shakespeare is a secret Catholic in Elizabethan England and is all tied up with spies, disguised priests, torture chambers priest’s holes, executions and other juicy stuff. Think Man for All Seasons meets Shakespeare in Love. Some people in California seem to be interested.