The Authorship Question
The Catholic Question
Cast of Characters
The Author's Mind
Edmund Campion
Edmund Campion as Shakespeare
The Works
Coincidence or Clue
The Devil's Advocate
Notes and References
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Although there is a critical tradition discussing an association between Shakespeare’s works and Catholicism, it has only been in recent times that eminent scholars have openly accepted that William Shakspere and his family were most likely Catholic recusants. This acceptance is primarily due to biographical details, one of the most important being the discovery of a will, including a Catholic profession of faith belonging to his father John Shakspere, in the rafters of a Stratford house. The profession was a copy of an original document drawn up by Cardinal Borromeo of Milan, many translated copies of which were brought to England by Edmund Campion in 1580 to distribute amongst the English Catholics. Other key evidence includes: the Catholicity of William’s mother, Mary Arden, and her family; the number of Catholic schoolteachers at the Stratford Grammar school during William’s boyhood; and the fact that the priest who presided over Shakspere’s wedding to Anne Hathaway was identified by the government as Roman Catholic.

In a turbulent century of English history, when reigning monarchs, both Catholic and Protestant, ruthlessly persecuted subjects whose religious beliefs and practices differed from the state line, it was not uncommon for people to switch, conceal or renounce their faith. Whether William Shakspere of Stratford was a true believer of the old faith is not crucial to this theory, but the fact that he moved amongst, and knew personally through kinship, the prominent Catholics of the time is important. His purchase in1613 of the Blackfriars Gatehouse in London, a suspected hiding place for London’s Catholics, encapsulates the conundrum. Did he buy it purely as an investment, as a cover for the Catholic underground or did it have sentimental worth? Was his role in disseminating the dramatic works of Edmund Campion motivated by religious zeal, love or money, or most probably a combination of factors? If Edmund Campion wrote the plays there can be no doubt as to a Catholic interpretation of the texts, more of which will be mentioned in the relevant section following.

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