Item description for The Quest for Shakespeare by Joseph Pearce...
Overview Looks at the life of Shakespeare and proposes that the man was a believing Catholic and that his status as such in anti-Catholic times informed all of his works.
Publishers Description Highly regarded and best-selling literary writer and teacher, Joseph Pearce presents a stimulating and vivid biography of the world's most revered writer that is sure to be controversial. Unabashedly provocative, with scholarship, insight and keen observation, Pearce strives to separate historical fact from fiction about the beloved Bard.
Shakespeare is not only one of the greatest figures in human history, he is also one of the most controversial and one of the most elusive. He is famous and yet almost unknown. Who was he? What were his beliefs? Can we really understand his plays and his poetry if we don't know the man who wrote them?
These are some of the questions that are asked and answered in this gripping and engaging study of the world's greatest ever poet. "The Quest for Shakespeare" claims that books about the Bard have got him totally wrong. They misread the man and misread the work. The true Shakespeare has eluded the grasp of the critics. Dealing with the facts of Shakespeare's life and times, Pearce's quest leads to the inescapable conclusion that Shakespeare was a believing Catholic living in very anti-Catholic times.
Many of his friends and family were persecuted, and even executed, for their Catholic faith. And yet he seems to have avoided any notable persecution himself. How did he do this? How did he respond to the persecution of his friends and family? What did he say about the dreadful and intolerant times in which he found himself? "The Quest for Shakespeare" answers these questions in ways that will enlighten and astonish those who love Shakespeare's work, and that will shock and outrage many of his critics. This book is full of surprises for beginner and expert alike.
Citations And Professional Reviews The Quest for Shakespeare by Joseph Pearce has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Books & Culture - 09/01/2009 page 32
Booklist - 05/15/2008 page 16
Reference and Research Bk News - 08/01/2008 page 310
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More About Joseph Pearce
Joseph Pearce is Writer in Residence and Visiting Fellow at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, NH. He is a renowned biographer whose books include Candles in the Dark: The Authorized Biography of Fr. Ho Lung, Missionaries of the Poor (Saint Benedict Press, 2012); Through Shakespeare's Eyes: Seeing the Catholic Presence in the Plays (Ignatius Press, 2010); and Tolkien: Man and Myth, a Literary Life (HarperCollins, 1998). He is the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate of Higher Education from Thomas More College for the Liberal Arts and the Pollock Award for Christian Biography. He is co-editor of the St. Austin Review, editor-in-Chief of Ignatius Press Critical Editions, and editor-in-Chief of Sapientia Press.
Joseph Pearce has published or released items in the following series...
Reviews - What do customers think about The Quest for Shakespeare?
Elizabeth's Power Silenced any Statement of Will's Beliefs Oct 31, 2008
Joseph Pearrce has written an excellent, well researched work that clearly establishes Shakespeare's deep links to the Catholic Underground in Elizabethan/Jacobite England. Some reviewers have quibbled, however, that Pearce's case cannot positively establish that Will Shakespeare remained a Catholic in belief. Perhaps, but that says more about the silencing power of Elizabeth's reign of terror than it does about Will Shakespeare.
For example, "Bostonian Reader" writes: "as a matter truth, we must admit that the case is one of plausibility and probability, with an enormous number of unanswered -- and probably unanswerable -- questions. Even admitting that Shakespeare was raised a Catholic (almost certain) and was persistently interested in traditional religious images and theological questions, we have no way of knowing what he personally believed -- the plays do not contain an explicit statement of faith. "
Had a Shakespeare play contained an explicit statement of faith, the censor would have prohibited the performance and Will would have been rounded up by Walsingham's Gestapo, or at a minimum the pursuivants would have spied on him and nailed him (and everyone associated with him) for recusancy or more. Yet in the end, "Bostonian" is right in a sense. Elizabeth's effort to suppress the Catholic Religion was so vicious that the greatest writer in England's sorry history had to keep his mouth shut on his own beliefs.
What Pearce unquestionably has accomplished, though, is equally valuable. First, he has laid out the deep connections Will had to the faithful remnant of the Catholic Church that remained in England during his life. Second, Pearce has laid out the reality of Elizabeth's Reign of Terror in such excruciating detail that we can well understand why Shakespeare did what he did: Why he left his property to the daughter who remained true to the Catholic Faith instead of to the one who had bent to the will of the all powerful English state. Why he never bought a house in London during his days there (because if he had, his "Anglican pastor" would have reported him so he could be punished for non-attendance at the Queen's church). Why he bought a house in London after he left London to retire in Stratford on Avon (because he wished to preserve the best Mass-House available in London for the secret offering of the Catholic Mass). Why the greatest writer in Elizabethan England never shed a tear or wrote anything in Elizabeth's favor when she died. The English Monarchy has tried so hard to establish the "Glory" of her Reign (by promoting use of the "Gloriana" name for her etc.), yet its greatest writer essentially dissed her!!
In the end, Pearce's case is far more convincing than the quibbles of those who dispute it. We should not impose 21st Century American expectations on a person living in Elizabeth and James's 16-17th Century Police State. Shakespeare couldn't write about his beliefs explicitly because practice of the Catholic Religion in England was absolutely forbidden from the time Elizabeth took the Throne until 1829.
Love the Premise Oct 6, 2008
A very serious look at the subject; and once the evidence is examined in the light of the times in which they occurred, then I concur!
gratitude Aug 24, 2008
I am very pleased to thank the Author for this book, that has got me to know the true Shakespeare. It's a wonderful book, very charming and convincing in its quest for the facts or the various degrees of plausible possibilities about the facts concerning the life and the character of the great Playwright. What I liked in particular was the clear and frank dismantling of the pretentious theories of so many scholars who pretend to dress the Poet with `their' personal mental habits...Again thanks, and I'm going to read these marvellous plays with a new and deeper awareness.
Convincing and fascinating read Jul 19, 2008
Joseph Pearce shows us convincingly the overwhelming evidence that Shakespeare was Catholic in a very objective manner, distinguishing always between facts that have proof to back them up and speculations that have only circumstantial evidence. This book is easy to read and imperative to understand Shakespeare and the times he lived in. Unfortunately, Pearce spends only one chapter (really an appendix) demonstrating how the knowledge of Shakespeare's Catholicity should affect our reading of his works, and the work he chooses is King Lear, not exactly one of the most famous of Shakespeare's plays. I wish he had chosen Hamlet or Macbeth. I hope that in the future, Pearce will do an in-depth study of more of Shakespeare's plays and sonnets.
The Apologist's Shakespeare Jul 9, 2008
Joseph Pearce is a prominent biographer cum Catholic apologist, and of course he presents the case for Shakespeare as a Catholic. Is Pearce's presentation of this a "slam dunk", as another reviewer puts it? By no means. There has been a great deal of recent scholarship, some judicious and reliable and some wildly speculative, without admitting such.
Now, I am sympathetic to the Catholic case. But as a matter truth, we must admit that the case is one of plausibility and probability, with an enormous number of unanswered -- and probably unanswerable -- questions. Even admitting that Shakespeare was raised a Catholic (almost certain) and was persistently interested in traditional religious images and theological questions, we have no way of knowing what he personally believed -- the plays do not contain an explicit statement of faith. For judicious and critical but sympathetic reviews of the issues, I recommend two reviews from the journal, First Things:
If you want a biography that will inspire your Catholic faith and sensibilities, by all means read Pearce. And feel free to substitute five stars for my two. (Even at that I would allow only four stars because I find Pearce a rather superficial and tedious writer.)
If you want a fairer reading of the evidence, sympathetic without overstatement to the the Catholic case, start with the two articles mentioned or reading Michael Woods' outstanding book, "Shakespeare" (the DVD of the PBS series called "In Search of Shakespeare" is fabulous). Michael Woods' book has the further advantage of have a really good annotated bibliography--he even sites the opposition literature.