Shakespeare the Catholic?

Reading, at last, Peter Ackroyd’s wonderful Shakespeare: The Biography, I learn that it’s 98% certain that Shakespeare’s parents, John Shakespeare and his wife, were Catholic recusants, secret Catholics in Stratford-on-Avon, with hidden-away devotional material (which has turned up) and that Shakespeare was raised Catholic. Certainly he was baptized in that faith. Shakespeare was very secretive about it because, well, they jailed you and if you proselytized they KILLED you. In fact some of Shakespeare’s friends were executed… Really,  contemplating this Elizabethan juncture, I’ve got far more sympathy for the Catholics than the C of E. (Then there’s that whole 30 years War thing: “– total deaths caused by the conflict range from 4.5 to 8 million”…The war, as it went on, was really about oligarchic dominance of territory, but it was spawned by idiotic religious intolerance.) Not only did Ackroyd, author of a very good biography of William Blake, and many other fine books, utterly convince me that Shakespeare was raised Catholic, and that his career was cultivated by the fellow Catholic recusants who were numerous and always getting into trouble with the C of E authorities in the Stratford area–but also, he explains clearly, inarguably, how Shakespeare’s works were most certainly written by Shakespeare and not by, whoever is the doubter flavor of the month, Oxford or whomever. The book is a pleasure to read.

The Machinery Purrs

We buy machines (don’t know how they work);

we plug in devices, to service our quirks.

They hum and they light, we use them till broken;

toss them into a pit, an omen unspoken:

till a new device we implant within us

smaller and smaller, like dust inside us.

We begin to change, we click and we whir,

we think of no one–I forget about her;

she forgets me, but her machinery purrs.

When I see her again, her eyes are unlit;

like other machines we were flung in the pit.