Shakespeare the Catholic

Today is William Shakespeare’s birthday, and it’s getting to be pretty well accepted that the mysterious man of Avon was actually a Catholic. Joseph Pearce’s book, The Quest for Shakespeare is the best of the books exploring the evidence for Shakespeare’s Catholicism.

It is a web of intriguing evidence from the fact that Shakespeare’s mother came from a famous family of recusant Catholics, his school teachers were Catholics and his father was fined for being a Catholic as was his daughter. Pearce pieces together the rest of the evidence as well in a fascinating study that comes up with the conclusion that if Shakespeare wasn’t a practicing Catholic then, at least his worldview, his values and beliefs were infused with a Catholic vision.

I wrote an article for Pearce’s journal St Austin Review on how Shakespeare’s Catholic vision effected his work and how and why it differs so deeply from the drama produced today for television and the movies. You can read the article here: Shakespeare and the Movies.

The world of Shakespeare/Catholic scholarship is growing, and the plays are being interpreted in the light of Shakespeare’s Catholic faith. Read more.

By the way– if you’re intrigued by conspiracy theories about Shakespeare, what about the spooky detail that some people think proves that he helped write the King James Version of the Bible? Go here to find out more.

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  • Michael

    Joseph Pierce is quite an interesting fellow. Once a skinhead hooligan from East London, Mr Pierce is now IMO, one of the best Catholic biographers living. I met him this past year when he visited Charleston, SC and gave a series of lectures. The East Londonese is a challenge for the American listener but still a very rewarding evening.
    I am also a subscriber to the St Austin Review “Reclaiming Culture” and recommend it as I do “The Quest for Shakespeare”.

  • Foxie

    Hi Father,
    I have read your article on Hollywood movies. It is all nicely put but how can you then explain why don’t we have more quality christian movies? It seems to me many of them are quite as incoherent as the ones made by Hollywood(e.g. Bella, Walk to remember, …). What are your favourite christian movies? I would love to feed on something better then popular culture offers … right now I’m reading through Chesterton but what am I to do after that?:D (And also Bible, even though I’m a catholic I have read through it at least one full time^^ We had a parish round of a contest “bible for everyone” and my family got through to the next decanate round… I think this is a nice way to motivate people to read the Word more.)

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    My favorite movies aren’t ‘Catholic’ as such, but like Shakespeare, carry Catholic themes and values.

  • Howard Richards

    I think Shakespeare would have genuinely appreciated a Three Stooges short before the main feature.

  • Jonathan

    Yes, but let’s say you are a believer in the Oxfordian hypothesis of Shakespearean authorship. So, wouldn’t the more relevant question be: what sort of faith was Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford an adherent of ? I believe he was raised in the reformist school, dabbled in the occult, and later made a profession of the Catholic faith? And now, doesn’t that sound like the Shakespeare who wrote all those plays that you are such a fan of?

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    You dangled a preposition.