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Happy Birthday Shakespeare!

...or at least it’s probably the birthday of the best poet of the English language.

Discussions - 9 Comments

Probably???? Peter, your endearing habit of qualifying fails you in this instance.

Peter, mea culpa. I re-read your carefully written sentence and find it probably means that Shakespeare's birthday is probably on April 23rd, and not that Shakespeare is probably the greatest English poet! Probably.

Rob, That's probably right...

Or, Shakespeare is probably not Shakespeare?

What we do without Shakespeare or whoever wrote those plays and poems if S. didn't do it and what's in a name? That which we call a rose (or Shakespeare) by any other name would smell as sweet.

There are just some things, like water, gravity, chicken's eggs, and Shakespeare, without which life is simply unimaginable.

Kate is sweetly and profoundly right, but John points nevertheless to the odd and interesting business of doubt, in fact a whole genre of doubt, that WS really existed, despite the fact that Shakespeare seems actually to be buried at the altar of his parish church in Stratford, not far from where Arden Forest used to be (and only a hop, skip and a jump from where Churchill is buried by the way). This seems connected in part to questions about how the "real" WS could have gotten the education required to write as he did, in connection with what seems a deliberate obfuscation of a trail, most likely by WS himself. I got another take on this recently from an elderly retired English teacher while at a wedding reception. Her doubt stemmed from her opinion that the "real" WS could not have written the inscription on his grave, an inscription that my daughter and I interpret as a self-evident jibe at Henry VIII (don't move these stones or my bones, in effect) and a beforehand rebuke to Cromwell, both of whom moved and destroyed many stones and bones of saints. Straussians have been schooled not only not to care about all this but also to think of WS as an ancient. Nevertheless, I am increasingly convinced Shakespeare was a recusant Catholic and a Catholic ancient, or Catholic realist--the real anti-Machiavelli. By the way, we haven't noted that April 23rd is also probably S's deathday as well. And also the Feast of St. George, the patron saint of England, to whom we should all pray, for the country that Shakespeare loved.

Thank you, but I do regret the misplaced apostrophe, which galls my eyes.

Here is something pertinent to what you write. But why would Henry VIII have moved his bones? That WS or someone might think that there would be temptation to move his bones seems to argue that he was famed enough in his day to think someone might. But why do you think he was Catholic? As a Protestant, I have been reading that theology (in its earlier form, not today's) into his work for years. Please, tell me why I was mistaken.

Kate, there is indeed in the ditty a playful intimation that WS himself was a saint! But the rebuke is directed at the destruction/desecration of English churches and cathedrals carried out under Henry, a destruction intended to eliminate all vibrant color and signs of Catholicism from said churches. Consider also that WS is buried to the left of the altar of what was orginally a Catholic Holy Trinity, as all English churches were originally Catholic. I do not hold with recent books that purport to find a recusant code in Shakespeare's plays. I find Catholicism primarily in the scope and range and synthetic richness of S's imagination, and in what I understand to be his overall teaching, which of course is not "catholic" in any doctrinal sense. That is, you must simply read the plays as a good Straussian or liberally educated "new critic" would. Among other things to consider biographically is clear evidence his father was a recusant, that his schoolteachers in Stratford were Catholic, and then the so-called lost years of his education. Where was he? Who taught him? There is some evidence, not conclusive, that he studied secretly with Jesuits, and there has long been speculation that he was for a time in Italy, or at least on the continent. What reason would there be for secrecy? When we were in London last year the Globe was putting on an exhibition on S's Catholicism. It has been a "hot" topic there. With me, it is secondary to reading the plays. And reading the plays is a privilege of us all, Catholic or not.


Robert, that is interesting and I will be thinking about it. Yes, the plays are a wonder. Reading them, or seeing them done well may be an essential human right. Thank you.

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