The Bard

William Shakespeare's original patron was a Catholic and when Shakespeare came into his own he bought a house in London that housed and hid Catholic priests. When he retired to Stratford, one of Shakespeare's few visitors was John Robinson, a Catholic to whom Shakespeare had leased his London house, called the Blackfriars Gatehouse. An Anglican clergyman sighed upon Shakespeare's death that he had “dyed a papist.” All of this in addition to the many Catholic references and themes in Shakespeare's works, from Purgatory to the Mass, seem to indicate the greatest writer in human history was Catholic.

William's father, John, was a recusant—one who refused to take the Oath of Supremacy to Henry VIII, Elizabeth and the Church of England, and remained loyal to Catholicism. John Shakespeare was fined for his recusancy. William's daughter, Susanna, would also be fined. It is thought that William's father, John, spent time with the great St. Edmund Campion. Campion, of course, was that brilliant scholar and statesmen, coveted by Queen Elizabeth herself, who became a Catholic priest. Campion ministered clandestinely to Catholics all over England before being caught, tortured, and hung. John Shakespeare named one of his sons—William's younger brother—Edmund. And there is no question St. Edmund had an influence on William, as he had on so many other young Englishmen. Campion, by the way, had an interesting quote, which I take as my motto when it comes to politics, and which I think Shakespeare took as well: “I never had mind, and am strictly forbidden by our Father that sent me, to deal in any respect with matter of state or policy of this realm, as things which appertain not to my vocation, and from which I gladly restrain and sequester my thoughts.”

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