As the Speare Shakes…

We all know William Shakespeare, right, perhaps the biggest ball within the entire round of the Western Canon…

Now, I’m far from being a Shakespeare aficionado, and even farther away from being one who has read and/or watched all the great Bard has, apparently, plumed for us, but I’m no Shakespearean slouch either.

And as much as I enjoy and appreciate that little of his which I have read and/or watched, I enjoy almost equally the intrigue that surrounds him. Is he really the one history has assigned to being the greatest English voice of all time, or is he just a front for another who for some reason or another has preferred to stay anonymous?

My opinion on the topic sways with the wind and is mostly dependent upon which documentary and/or article about it I’ve recently watched and/or read.

Now, I knew that there has long been intrigue surrounding his sexual orientation, but I didn’t know, or I don’t remember that I knew, that there was intrigue surrounding his religious practices, the whole Protestant/Catholic thing that was/is all the rage, literally.

That is, I didn’t know that I knew, until now…

In the tucked-away document, which heavily cites an obscure 17th century Italian religious tract called The Last Will and Testament of the Soul, the writer pledges to die a good Catholic death. If the writer was indeed John Shakespeare, who remained a devout Protestant until his death in 1601, it would have indicated a major shift in his beliefs and suggested a clandestine life during an era when secret allegiance to the Catholic Church in Elizabethan England could have been dangerous. For this reason, many experts have suspected the document to be forged.

But in the new study, Steggle used internet archives to track down early editions of The Last Will and Testament of the Soul in Italian and six other languages and concluded the document could have only been written after John Shakespeare’s death. That left Steggle with just one other “J. Shakespeare”: Joan.

A Remarkable Discovery of a Document Shatters One of Shakespeare’s Biggest Mysteries, Popular Mechanics, March 26, 2024

If you don’t have a Popular Mechanics subscription, which I’m guessing you don’t, you can read the article with an Apple News subscription, which is where I found it.

And if you don’t have either, the article, referencing a recent study in the Shakespeare Quarterly (which of course you need a subscription to view the study beyond the extract), goes on to surmise that since new information now appears to prove that his sister Joan was a closeted Catholic, perhaps ol’ Willy himself was as well, which may be why we know so little about his personal life, particularly that part of it spent in his hometown, homevillage?, Strafford-on-the-Avon. He feared, perhaps, of being outted for being a papist, which of course was a big and bloody no no back in his day.

I know, I know, all this historical intrigue and speculation is high level nerd alert stuff that, considering all the strife inflicting our pretty yet petulant planet right now, is very inconsequential.

But so is my mind, which is why I enjoy it all so much. Enquiring minds want to know, you know (if you’re familiar with that quote/slogan, then it not only dates you/me, it also tells us so much about your/my intellectual taste, or lack there of).

Anyway, I guess if I had to guess who I think the real Shakespeare is if it truly isn’t Shakespeare himself, then I guess my guess would have to be Sir Francis Bacon, mostly because that was who Mark Twain guessed it to be, and I guess we all know that Mr. Twain was a lot smarter than I pretend to be…

Then the thing happened which has happened to more persons than to me when principle and personal interest found themselves in opposition to each other and a choice had to be made: I let principle go, and went over to the other side.  Not the entire way, but far enough to answer the requirements of the case.  That is to say, I took this attitude, to wit: I only believed Bacon wrote Shakespeare, whereas I knew Shakespeare didn’t.

Is Shakespeare Dead? From my Autobiography – Mark Twain


3 thoughts on “As the Speare Shakes…”

  1. I find this interesting as well! I have always wondered why Sheakespeare had a lot of Italian and Catholic Church content. Those plays that come to mind are Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Tempest. I’m note sure if there are other.


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