How the 17th-Century Religious Question Influenced Shakespeare’s works

This is an interesting question for any writer, no matter what century he or she lives/lived in, and merits a post about Shakespeare’s thinking as he wrote his plays, as well as how modern day writing is influenced by religion, or if it is at all anymore!

This section of Craig’s Shakespeare follows: “After Elizabeth came to the throne there was a bitter reaction against the Catholics. Those Protestants who fled abroad to avoid persecution under Queen Mary brought back with them continental ideas of theology and a new and stiffer type of Protestantism. The Church of England assumed a middle position between this extreme Protestantism and Catholicism; this was the position of Burghley and of Queen Elizabeth (as I expound in my novel “Blood and Ink”). By the middle of her reign extreme Protestantism, commonly called Puritanism, was expressing itself either in Presbyterianism or Independency, and the time came when it offered a violent attack on the middle position held by the Church of England. Shakespeare hardly shows himself aware of this powerful and pregnant force. His allusions to the Puritans are few and indefinite, but they have been thought to be scornful. His position on religious matters was probably that of the Queen. He is equally noncommital as regards the Church of Rome, although he shows a sympathetic understanding of the institutions of the Catholic church in Hamlet, King John, and elsewhere.”

This is very interesting, as the whole “non-commital” stance that Craig points out. I do believe that as a playwright, one who had the ear of the Queen (and possibly an entirely different writer as “Blood and Ink” alludes), this goes hand in hand with my thoughts on his possible compromise to promote his works. Keep quiet so the higher powers will continue to patron his works.

I think it is interesting to what extent many artists, and writers, and so on, will go to in an attempt to promote their works. Some compromise their beliefs, their morals, and their own integrity to make money, to commercialize instead of maintaining their love for their own artistry. I am not saying this is what Shakespeare did, for as we are well aware, his works speak for themselves; but at what cost? We may never know, well, for sure we don’t have the present opportunity to speak with the man himself and ask him what he sacrificed in order to see his works come to fruition. He may have sacrificed his beliefs and stayed quiet in order to appease the Queen, he may have sacrificed his life in Stratford-upon-Avon with his wife and children to see his works upon the stage. Who knows?

But the idea makes us, as modern writers, sit back and peruse these thoughts in relation to our own writing. What are we willing to sacrifice to see our works in print? To see them become best sellers? Our time? Our beliefs? Our family? Our name?

For my part, I will gladly sacrifice the words on a page, my writing, if it meant losing any of those things; but that is just me…. what about you?

Thanks for reading and following!

D. K. Marley

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