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The Religion in Shakespeares Time

The Reformation has a great influence on western culture and literature. The Reformation in England is during 14 and 15 century. It is initiated by Henry VIII, the king of England during the year 1509 to 1547. He made himself the headman of Anglican Church.

But from my part of view, religion is just a tool for Henry VIII to control his country. We can find a lot of information from the internet that at the beginning of Europe Reformation, he is against with it. It seems he did not care which religion he should believe in but which one is useful to control his country and citizens. On the other hand, there are also some others for The Reformation, for example the Renaissance. The main idea of the Renaissance is the importance of human beings. It is against Roman Catholic Church in some ways. And the Renaissance has a large influence in European countries. As a result of that, the old dogmas of Roman Catholic Church are not suit for the society. It is an initiative of The Reformation.

In the later years, Henrys Roman Catholic daughter, Mary resumed the control of Roman Catholic in England and killed many Proestants. And soon after her death, Elizabethan, who was in the same period with W. William Shakespeare took her palace to be the King of England. She resumed the Protestantism.

From these changes we can notice again that religion is just the tools for the rulers, but the inference of religion will affects the country tin many facts, especially culture and literature.

Mysterious W. William Shakespeare Catholic? Protestant ? Atheism ?

When touching on the knowledge of Shakespeares religion, many scholars will stand out to contend their opinions. Because there is no certain answer to the Shakespeares religious

affiliation the arguments can be heard without end. Generally speaking, their standpoints include three main kinds: Catholic, Protestant, Atheism.

SHAKESPEARE IS A CALTHOLIC? The dominant voice in that debate is that Shakespeare is a secret Catholic. The judgement is based on some circumstantial but significant historical evidences:

(FAMILY)Shakespeare was born in a family which had Catholic tradition. (FAMILY) His mother, Mary Arden, was a conspicuous Catholic. His father, John Shakespeare, signed a tract which suggested that he secretly profess Catholicism.Whats more, Englands final break with Rome was still within his living memory.

(EDUCATION)The Stratford grammar school, which Shakespeare once attended in, had contacts with the Catholic Old Faith. I can cite from Park Honan, Shakespeares most recent biographer, all of Shakespeares grammar school teachers (if he indeed attended Stratfords grammar school, as is universally assumed) were active Catholics or had close connections with the Old Faith.

Shakespeares last will and testament also provides a glimpse into Shakespeares life and faith. Shakespeare mentioned ten non-family members in his last will. In those ten people, five of them were Catholic or Catholic sympathizers.

Richard Wilson points out that the person named William Shakeshafte who lived with the Catholic Houghton family in Lancashire is really young William Shakespeare from Stratford. Shakespeare lived at the age of Elizabeth .At that time,Englands Catholics were supposed to convert to the Protestants. Any service which was not fit in Protestantism was illegal. As a famous playwriter ,he has the necessity to hide his true identity so that his career wont be destroyed.

He shows his Catholic elements metaphorically in his works. In Romeo and Juliet , Friar Laurence was created into a complex figure more than just a good or bad guy. But in the plays written by other writers in the same time, Catholic clergy is simply described into one-dimensional bad guy. In Hamlet ,he mentioned Catholic sacraments ,During the

discussion between Hamlet and the ghost of Hamlets dead father, the ghost description of the horrors of his current situation, which strongly resemble the Catholic doctrine of purgatory. And he often writes the story happened in older time and other places. This setting forces me to think whether he wanted to hide something or not.

Some surmise Shakespeare wed in Temple Grafton rather than the Protestant Church in Stratford in order for his wedding to be performed as a Catholic sacrament.

SHAKESPEARE IS A PROTESTANT? As we all known, society puts the most pressure on individuals belief. In the Elizabeth s time people were supposed to believe in Protestanism. Shakespeare was so famous that I think he had to go with the main stream.

SHAKESPEARE IS AN ATHESIM? Does Shakespeare have to believe in something? If so, maybe the only thing he believes in is himself. To be an Athesim accords with Shakespeares character. After reading his plays, it is very easy to find that he is really a humorous (sometimes evil and dirty) man. All the religious elements mentioned in his plays maybe just a kind of sarcasm. Too much religious changes in that time shaked religions position in peoples mind.For shakespeare ,who is educated and effected by the Renaissance, should had his own choice. It could happen to him that he believe in no religion.

Citation: 1.PAULJ.VOSS ,Assurances of Faith: How Catholic was Shakespeare? How Catholic are his Plays?

Religion, since moment of its birth, bring into play a tremendous influence to the whole world especially Western world. Religion appears in the various branches of human culture, in various fields. A lot of literary works contain religious ideas or even created all by religious ideas. We can not calculate how deep the religion effect the literatrue world. Shakespeare, as the greatest Western worlds playwright, in his numerous writings, also give readers much senses of religious consciousness obviously. This may be inevitable, and it is very natural too. Because at the period of his life, people believed in religion absolutely. Belief is the spiritual pillar, people do everything according the religion doctrines. Shakespeare himself is also a Christian. In his works, God, ghosts, a mysterious force, death and other religious element often appears.Moreover, especially in these tragedies, he revealed the mystery what are based on Christian ideas and expressions. Some of its most representative features, exception, are all link with Christian religious feelings and understanding of Christianity. We can believe that Shakespeares classic tragedy works are Christian tragedy. Because of the complexity of religion itself and the delicate association, so the religious issues appear in his works is also very complex and delicate. Here, we would take Hamlet as an example to make a simple analysis. As we have already learned the four major tragedies written by Shakespeare, Hamlet gives us more clearer evidents than others. The content of Creation and the Gods doctrine control of history form Bible, make this world undefined of the rewards and punishments of sin as the most important issue.

In Hamlet, the hero who embodies both of them directly and indirectly. Hamlet: Youre right. Mother, this was an act of ruthlessness, but yet it doesnt compare to your horrid deed! You killed my father and married his younger brother. (Pick up to portraits) Look at my noble father, the King! After he had been dead for only short time, you married his younger brother, his murderer! (act1,scene3)

Hamlet knows the moral principles of this society, so he concludes that the sin of his uncle(king) is unforgiveable, go and kill the King to solve the ugly issue directly is reasonable and justicial. But the result is a manslaugter of Polonius. On the other hand, in religious doctrine, womens virginity is respected, and Hamlet definately think so. He consider that every woman should do exactly as the same expecially Ophelia. But in real life, he does not believe anyone could obey the principle as an woman. Hamlet: Ay, truly; for the power of beauty will sooner transform honesty from what it is to a bawd than the force of honesty can translate beauty into his likeness: this was sometime a paradox, but now the time gives it proof.I did love you once. (act3,scene 1) He does not understand the true inner thoughts of a woman. Eventually,the wrong judgment of Love directly leads Ophelia suicide. He plunges into a deep pain. Thats the conflicts between ideaological and so-called sacred Law.

Hamlet: To be, or not to be, that is the question: Than fly to others that we know not of? Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied oer with the pale cast of thought; And enterprises of great pith and moment, With this regard, their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action.Soft you now! The fair Ophelia!Nymph, in thy orisons Be all my sins rememberd. (act 3,scene 1)

His monologue is even more revealing of his inner ambivalence. Despite the how deep he hates the evil social, he worries about what kind of values to follow. That s the conflict between mans ideaological and so-called sacred Law. As we all know, in a variety of religions, Christianity is well-known in dealing with physical and the the sin of body harshly. he found that persons ideological have huge conflicts with the present law of the society. Therefore, Hamlets fear of sensual, resentment of his mothers infidelity, thinking of death, what can not help him escape from some hidden religious moral constraints, eventually led Hamlet to the tragical result. His fathers ghost appears for several times, what deified the drama on the other hand, add more religious overtones.

Works Cited

Questions and answers 1.Does the religion have an effect on the orientation of the advanced culture? Or The orientation of the advanced culture has an influence on the development of religion? Each of them afects each other. As religion is very important in western countries, it is of course, has an importanteffect on culture. But on the other hand, religion is a tool for those rulers,it is man-made in some ways. So The orientation of the advanced culture will also affect the religion.

2.Why did Shakespeare like to use some stoies in the age that there is no Christianity,to express the spirit of Christianity?

From my part of view, this is a good way to avoid giving offense to the leaders. it is also same in ancient China, writing something about the polity is very dangerous. So many writers are used to not writing something very targeted.

Why was religion so important in Shakespeare's time?


The Roman Catholic church had gained enormous power and influence for centuries by claiming that they were a gateway to heaven and also claiming that they could send you to Hell for eternity if they chose to. Very few people were educated well enough to challenge them. In Shakespeare's time it was actually compulsory to go to church on Sunday. You could be punished severely for not going. The vicar was probably the only man in the parish who had been educated and who could read and write. Divorce was forbidden and only granted in exceptional circumstances by the Pope himself. Even the previous King could not get a divorce. The church were entitled to 10% of a farmers crop. The church owned huge areas of land and huge amounts of gold and silver. Any of the tens of thousands of tenant farmers on church land were at the mercy of the church. they also liked turnips in the church because it was a sign of been religious. Turnips give them super powers as they was able to see god. NOM NOM