Clearly Unbiased Vatican Claims Shakespeare As Catholic

They didn’t mention this at mass this morning, but the Vatican is now claiming there is “little doubt” that Shakespeare was, in fact, Catholic.

Forgive me while I butcher the history for newcomers, but we’re talking about England in a time shortly after Henry VIII and the whole “What do you mean I can’t have any more annulments?  I quit the church!!” controversy.  So the England that Shakespeare born into was, officially, Protestant.  As such, rumors have always been rampant that there were secret Catholic societies constantly trying to sneak in, murder Queen Elizabeth, all that good stuff.  And, of course, both sides want to claim Shakespeare as their own.  I remember when some sort of document supposedly written by Shakespeare’s father was discovered, which clearly proved that at least he (the father) was Catholic. Whatever happened to that, was it proven to be a forgery?

What I can’t figure out is, what’s changed? Their argument appears to go back to the whole idea of Purgatory in Hamlet (something that’s been right there in the text for 400 years). The Vatican says that Purgatory is a Catholic concept, therefore Shakespeare was Catholic.  Ok, fine – but, again, why suddenly now declare that? 

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One thought on “Clearly Unbiased Vatican Claims Shakespeare As Catholic

  1. The document, allegedly found in the walls of Shakespeare's birthplace during renovations in the 18(?)00s, is gone. We only have a record of it being found and signed by John Shakespeare asking for prayers to be said after he death to get him out if purgatory faster and, while he would pretend to be protestant, he was really Catholic. I think we have some records of him being fined for missing weekly (Protestant) mass, but not sure about that. Either way, little evidence Shakespeare was Catholic, even if the document actually existed.

    For more info, I highly recommend Greenblatt's "Hamlet in Purgatory" and "Will in the World." I think the latter discusses this very issue!

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