religion of Shakespeare

28kb jpg detail of a portrait of William Shakespeare; swiped off the Wikipedia web site; please do not write to ask about the image

William Shakespeare (1564-1616), poet and dramatist, was born at Stratford-on-Avon, England; died there. Richard Davies, Anglican archdeacon, one of Shakespeare’s earliest biographers, says “He dyed a Papyst.” Davies could have had no conceivable motive for misrepresenting the matter, and as he lived in the neighboring county of Gloucestershire, he had the opportunity of knowing many of Shakespeare’s contemporaries. Sir Sydney Lee, for years editor of the Dictionary of National Biography, disregards Archdeacon Davies’s expression as only “a bit of late 18th-century gossip.” However, it forms part of a series of documents registered as a gift to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, 1690. Clara Longworth de Chambrun in her book, Shakespeare, Actor-Poet, calls Davies “one of the best controversial writers and speakers in the Church of England in those days.” She adds that when he “sets down the statement that Shakespeare died a Papist, we may be certain it was because he believed the information true, not because he wished to believe it was so.” It is probable that Shakespeare’s father was or had been a Catholic, and his mother undoubtedly belonged to a conspicuously Catholic family. The most definite declaration which has been brought forward as yet is Shakespeare’s will, which opens with the name of God, into whose hands Shakespeare commends his soul, hoping and believing, through the merits of Jesus Christ, to partake of life everlasting.

Published in: on 11 February 2007 at 1:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

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