View Full Version : What was Shakespeare's religion? Does it matter?

Ray Eston Smith
05-22-2009, 06:09 PM
I think above all else Shakespeare was tolerant.

Listen to Shylock's "do we not bleed" speech and compare to the way Marlowe abused Jews in "The Jew of Malta."

Look for anything in Shakespeare that compares with Marlowe's treatment of the Pope in "Doctor Faustus."

Shakespeare ridiculed Malvolio, but I think that was aimed at a particular type of personality rather than a religion.

The conflict between Catholics and Protestants triggered mass murders of whole villages on the Continent in Shakespeare's time. I think Shakespeare feared a similar fate for England. The English government was murdering Catholic priests. A few years before Shakespeare was born, Bloody Mary and Cardinal Pole were murdering Protestant martyrs. In 1593, Shakespeare was considered the second best playwright in England. The best was Christopher Marlowe, former spy on the Catholics at Rheims, who was perhaps murdered as part of the secret war between Catholic spies and Protestant spies. Shakespeare himself may have been raised as a radical Catholic.

But I think Shakespeare wanted to escape from all that, and he wanted to help his audiences escape, at least for an afternoon. And perhaps he tried to prevent some real world tragedies by holding up a mirror to nature and helping people see themselves in each other, "For, by the image of my cause, I see / The portraiture of his."

If the Ghost in Hamlet was an allegory for the Ghost of the Catholic Church, the moral of the story was "don't kill each other over religion."

We do it wrong, being so majestical,
To offer it the show of violence;
For it is, as the air, invulnerable,
And our vain blows malicious mockery.

05-23-2009, 06:16 AM
I'm not sure it matters tremendously, but I remember reading somewhere that some historians found a load of Catholic documents secreted in his Stratford house, although they probably belonged to his father. Nonetheless, its possible he was a closet Catholic.

As for his depiction of Shylock, I personally believe that he is demonstrating the general Elizabethan degree of anti-semitism; however I also believe that Shakespeare the artist created a far more complex character than a traditional stage-Jew, and one that can be interpreted very sympathetically in our post-Holocaust world.

09-30-2009, 07:08 AM
well Iíve seen Hamlet before and loved every single second of it! It's one of the best plays I have ever seen. All of the actors were amazing...especially Jude! This weekend Iím going to see it again with my sister ; I just got 2 cheap tickets from Ticketsinventory.com and want to share with all of u Ö Don't miss it.!!!

10-01-2009, 03:30 PM
Shakespeare was likely raised catholic, but it is uncertain what his practice was regarding religion after that point. He is buried in a protestant church and was certainly xtian. His characters express so many differing points of view that we can only determine that he understood and perhaps even sympathised with many different practices. Tolerance, without a doubt more tolerant than the society in which he lived and the message in his works supports that he wished England to be a tolerant society.