Archive for Tuesday, August 21, 1990


August 21, 1990


Carol Enos, Lawrence High School English teacher, recently returned from a six-week seminar on Shakespeare. But the way she talks, you'd think she just attended a mystery writers convention.

Enos was one of 15 people nationwide selected to participate in a seminar of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Held at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha, Wis., the seminar focused on Shakespeare's "Henriad" "Richard II,'' ``Henry IV,'' parts 1 and 2, and "Henry V.''

In addition to in-depth study and discussion of the plays, each member of the seminar engaged in individual scholarly research and wrote two research papers. That allowed Enos to further investigate a mystery that has intrigued her for over a year now: How closely was Shakespeare associated with the Catholic movement that existed in Queen Elizabeth's Protestant England, and are there clues in his writings that reflect that involvement?

ENOS SAID that mystery has consumed her thoughts ever since January 1989, when she had the opportunity to use the Bodleian Library at Oxford. She said the ``Shakespeareana Genealogica'' a book on Shakespeare's family tree and materials dating back to the 1700s helped her see connections between Shakespeare and the Catholic movement.

Although Enos is not the first to propose that connection, she said most authorities discredit the view that Shakespeare was heavily involved in the movement or alluded to it in his writings.

"I recognize that this is not the accepted interpretation of Shakespeare. It's an unorthodox approach, but extremely compelling," Enos said. "It seems to me we need to spend more time investigating his early plays in that light. I also think some of the plays need to be redated because I suggest that he was writing in people's homes."

Enos said wealthy families in Shakespeare's day could afford to have theatrical players in their households. Not much is known today of Shakespeare's whereabouts between 1585 and 1592, but Enos thinks he could have been performing in the home of Alexander Hoghton, a key figure in the Catholic movement.

HOGHTON'S WILL mentions a William Shakeshaft, which Enos said would have been a common variation of Shakespeare's name. The will also mentions a John Cotham, which could have been a variation on the name John Cottam. Cottam was a teacher at Shakespeare's hometown grammar school at the time that Shakespeare would have attended it, so it's possible that Cottam recommended Shakespeare as a player for the Hoghton household, Enos said.

Another key player in the Catholic movement was Edmund Campion, a Jesuit priest. Campion is known to have known the Hoghton family, so Shakespeare would have met him had he performed for the Hoghtons.

Interestingly, Enos said, Shakespeare used Campion's history of Ireland in two of his plays. Enos also thinks Shakespeare was alluding to Campion in the second part of ``Henry IV.''

IN THAT play, Lady Purcy gives a eulogy for Hotspur, saying that everybody wanted to emulate him, and likening him to a second Cicero. That description doesn't very well fit the picture of Hotspur presented in part one of ``Henry IV,'' Enos said. However, it does fit Edmund Campion, who was a star scholar at Oxford in Shakespeare's time.

"He was copied by all the young men. They wanted to talk like him. They wanted to walk like him. They wanted to look like him," Enos said.

However, Queen Elizabeth didn't think too highly of Campion, and she put him to a traitor's death because of his Catholic faith. If Shakespeare was sympathetic to the Catholic cause, it would make sense that Lady Purcy's eulogy was for Campion, Enos said.

"Shakespeare would want to make some sort of public statement, but he would have had to disguise Campion in a play," she said.

Enos said another Catholic priest who was put to death is recorded to have been wearing yellow stockings. In Shakespeare's ``Twelfth Night,'' a character depicted as a very staunch Protestant is wearing yellow stockings. Enos said that could have been an ironic allusion to the priest.

"HAD SHAKESPEARE performed the play in the Hoghton home, it would have been funny to them, I think, just because they knew about the yellow stockings," she said.

Enos said that if such allusions could be substantiated as hidden potshots aimed at Queen Elizabeth, "They by no means would demean or make less important Shakespeare's work. Rather, I think it would add another dimension.

"It would add the dimension of skill in being able to circumvent the censors to present ideas that were dangerous."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.