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
Contact Me

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In her detailed studies of Shakespeare’s imagery, Caroline Spurgeon makes the assertion that the writer, chiefly through his images, reveals his “innermost likes and dislikes, observations and interests, associations of thought, attitudes of mind and beliefs.”[33]. She comments that this is more often the case in drama than in poetry, especially Elizabethan drama, wherein the images “tumble out of the mouths of the characters in the heat of the writer’s feeling or passion, as they naturally surge up into his mind.” [34]

Not all critics have unequivocally accepted this assertion with regard to Shakespeare but most seem to accept a degree of truth to the claim. Authors, including Virginia Woolf, who was familiar with the working habits of the biographer and fiction writer, have agreed that “every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.” [35]

If we are to apply this theory to Shakespeare, what does his use of imagery reveal about the nature of his likes and dislikes, his predilections, his observations and his thought patterns? His use of imagery developed over time from a conventional and artificial usage to a more natural and sophisticated use in harmony with character, theme and action. However, as W. H. Clemen finds noteworthy , throughout most of his work Shakespeare “gathers his images more from the concrete observation of nature, from the objects of daily life”. [36]

Spurgeon concurs and examines his characteristic imagery more closely and concludes that it was “nature (especially the weather, plants and gardening) animals (especially birds) and what we may call the everyday and domestic, the body in health and sickness, indoor life, fire, light, food and cooking which easily come first.” [37 She divides the main body of his imagery thus into the two groups of nature and those from indoor life and customs. “Nature first ..Daily indoor life comes next, especially the simple indoor occupations and routine, eating, drinking and cooking, the work of the kitchen, washing and wiping, dust, dirt, rust and stains, the body and it’s movements, sleep and dreams, clothes and materials, patching and mending, common handicrafts, the feel of substances, smooth or soft or sticky, fire, candles and lamps, sickness and medicine, parents and children, birth death and marriage.” [38] It is this body of Shakespeare’s most favoured images that will, according to Spurgeon’s and Woolf’s theories, strongly reveal his personality and his experience.

From nature the most common images Spurgeon identifies are those relating to growing things in a garden or orchard, the weather and the movement of birds. Campion would have had ample time to observe these aspects of nature during the years he spent at Oxford and in the monasteries in Brunn and Prague and during the times he spent on the road travelling across Europe and within Bohemia. From indoor life Spurgeon notes Shakespeare’s large number of images to do with the provision of fire and light and the unusually large number drawn from the daily work and occupations of women in a kitchen and living room.

This last category seems the most puzzling, especially as Shakespeare’s men have as much knowledge of such work as his women, until we realize that the domestic chores with which Shakespeare seems familiar are those undertaken by the friars in the monasteries. It seems highly unlikely that any other class of Elizabethan male would be so familiar with such tasks unless he were the early modern exemplar for today’s house husband. Campion’s familiarity with such chores, particularly with kitchen duties, arose out of his daily practice in the Jesuit order.

Simpson conveys how Campion “was loaded with offices; besides being Professor of Rhetoric, he was matutinus excitator, and nocturnes visitator, and worked in the kitchen for recreation. [39] The former two offices involved ringing the bells for the night and morning routines, exercises and prayers, in addition to lighting and extinguishing the fathers’ candles at the appropriate times. Perhaps Shakespeare’s constant awareness of the inconvenience and discomfit of ill-fed or ill-cared for fire and light was as a result of Campion’s duties in the kitchen and as keeper of the flame.

Many of Shakespeare’s other favourite images listed by Spurgeon could arise out of the daily experiences and observations of a sixteenth century Jesuit priest. Spurgeon’s list includes those from trade and building especially carpentering and coopering; those reflecting a sympathy for the underdog including the sick and dying, the poor and oppressed, prisoners, idiots or madmen, gypsies, beggars, pedlars and slaves; the spectacle of the rising sun; the human face; and those arising from a sympathetic understanding of children, especially small boys.

One of the main creeds of the Jesuits was the importance of Works of Mercy which for Campion and the other priests would have meant ministering to the sick, the dying, the incarcerated, prostitutes, their daughters, and orphans. Peacemaking also figured in the Jesuit ministry and tales abound of how the priests “effected reconciliations among warring factions, especially in remote villages of the two great {Italian} peninsulas “ [40] which brings to mind the story of Romeo and Juliet.

Parsons wrote that Campion “preached publicly, made exhortations in private, read in the schools, taught the Christian doctrine unto children, heard confessions, visited prisons and hospitals of sick men, and at the death of sundry great persons made such excellent funeral orations as astonished the hearers.” [41]

The Jesuits were aided in their merciful works by the establishment of confraternities, voluntary civic bodies of men and women, and it has been noted that it was one of Campion’s duties to oversee the confraternity in Prague. One can imagine how, through his ministry, Campion came into contact with the vast array of male and female human characters and their experiences, and was able to develop insight into, and sympathy for, the plight of so many different lives.

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