Chris suggested that one of us wrote an article about Shakespeare, who features especially in Lara Eakins's 'TudorCast'". Since my pencil eraser says 'Out Damned Spot' on it (thanks to the RSC gift catalogue of several years ago), and my fountain pen is named Edmund, after Gloucester's legitimate son in King Lear, and that other Tudor Great, Edmund Blackadder, I think I qualify.
My desk calendar informed me that the anniversary of Shakespeare's birth and death was on Monday (also St George's day, of course). Here are some brief thoughts about Shakespeare and Puritanism.
Religion on the whole gets a very mixed treatment from Shakespeare, prompting a number of theses and responses, including:- He was a closet Catholic;
- He was a closet Atheist;
- His mixture of Catholic and Protestant sentiments demonstrates the residual Catholic beliefs in England at the turn of the sixteenth/seventeenth centuries;
- Different people with different religious beliefs wrote different plays of his;
- He was a closet puritan (*highly dubious*, especially given some of his early writings like Titus Andronicus and the Rape of Lucrece, which are more the stuff that horror-movies are made on).
'Puritans' who feature in Shakespeare's plays include ice-cold Angelo in Measure for Measure, 'a man of stricture and abstinence' who turns out to be a lustful hypocrite in his attitude to heroine Isabella. But then Isabella, too, is a bit of a puritan, which is possibly what attracts him. The fact she expresses this in her desire to be a nun, and the fact all of this is set in Vienna, is besides the point - critics tend to agree that he is really talking about London and contemporary, Protestant, England. Another famous puritan is Malvolio in Twelfth Night, who eventually becomes plagued by his own ambition, and ends up wandering around in yellow cross-garters.
But parallels can also be drawn between the Bard's other plays and poems and puritan spirituality and life. His early 'time' sonnets, for instance, emphasise the brevity of life and pine after a more lasting reality (although they claim to find it in the youth of his affection).
The theatres suffered a tempestuous relationship with the authorities of the day (Shakespeare in Love gives a fairly good picture of that), and the re-built Globe was eventually closed down in 1642 (and destroyed; until it was rebuilt in the late 20th century).
By the way, I am coveting an RSC 'thinking cap'.