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The Quest for Shakespeare Hardcover – April 1, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 275 pages
  • Publisher: Ignatius Press; 1St Edition edition (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586172247
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586172244
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #621,406 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Clare Asquith’s Shadowplay (2005) argued from cryptic literary evidence that Shakespeare was a Catholic, necessarily clandestine during his era, when to be so entailed huge fines, arrest, and even execution. Eschewing Asquith’s method (merely pointing out a pun in the occasional sonnet), Pearce also concludes that Shakespeare was a Catholic and, indeed, that one must be prejudiced to insist otherwise. The evidence he cites shows that John Shakespeare’s will was based on a Catholic model; that John and son William each left bequests and executorship to Catholics; that Shakespeare’s daughters were named out of the Apocrypha (biblical writings by Catholic, but not Protestant, lights); that Shakespeare bought property that benefited Catholics, including a longtime venue for clandestine masses; that he was married by a Catholic priest miles away from his home parish; and so on and so on. Pearce also argues that Shakespeare’s talent may have led the authorities to wink at his Catholicism, as they did with the gifted composer William Byrd. It helps Pearce that, as usual, he’s a delight to read. --Ray Olson


"Joseph Pearce writes piercingly brilliant books. This is one of them. He usually writes dramatic biographies. This is not one of them. It is not a biography and it is the least dramatic book he has written. But it is also the most important one. To see its importance, try the following thought-experiment. Imagine a book that convincingly proved that Homer was a Jew, or that Milton was a lapsed Catholic, or that Dante was a proto-Protestant. The idea would have far-ranging consequences. It would cast a new light on everything we knew about Homer, or Milton, or Dante. In his next book Pearce will trace the consequences of Shakespeare's Catholicism in his plays. In this book, he proves it historically. I mean proves it. (Pearce would make a formidable lawyer.) The evidence is simply overwhelming." ---Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., Boston College, Author, Summa of the Summa

"I've long suspected that there was a deep Catholic sensibility in the plays of Shakespeare an emphasis on man's powerlessness without grace, yet also an openness to the sacramentality of nature, and to the energetic work of dutiful yet often mistrusted or despised servants. Pearce shows that Shakespeare himself was such a dutiful servant, ever dutiful to the Queen, but to God first. He does not leap to conclusions, but builds a case that is meticulous, reasonable, and convincing." ---Anthony Esolen, Ph.D., Providence College Professor of Renaissance English

"Joseph Pearce has brought together here a mass of material on the vexed question as to Shakespeare's religious affiliation a question which scholars have traditionally tried sedulously to ignore. But it is a question of more than merely neutral historic curiosity. Readers, I feel sure, will be quickly drawn in to the matter. Once again, we owe Mr. Pearce a great debt." ---Thomas Howard, Ph.D. Author, Dove Descending: T. S. Eliot s Four Quartets

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Customer Reviews

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Pearse makes a very persuasive case for both these positions, including some interesting analysis of Catholic clues hidden in Shakespeare's written works.
Mark Anderson
Even at that I would allow only four stars because I find Pearce a rather superficial and tedious writer.
Bostonian Reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Moser on May 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Joseph Pearce proves Shakespeare's Catholicism with such a resounding slam dunk that it seems pointless to prolong any argument on the issue. Shakespeare was Catholic. Deal with it. It's time now to proceed to a serious discussion of the implications of this fact. And there are plenty of implications.

I believe this book is going to have ramifications beyond even what the author might expect. By that, I mean the way it may affect one on a personal level. For anyone (such as myself) who was born into Protestantism and who has English ancestry, it's very sobering to be reminded by the historical facts presented in this book that not only were all of our English ancestors Catholic, but that, in all likelihood, our families became Protestants due to the considerable pressure of the state, and not by choice. It is also a bit painful when reading the biographical sketches of the various personalities whose lives touched Shakespeare, each of whom responded to the Elizabethan reign of terror in different ways, to consider how each of us may be remembered by future generations.
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34 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Joseph Pearce has written the most delightful book on Shakespeare I've ever come across. First, because the man is truly a gifted writer and has a sense of humor. Second, because he quickly demolishes the many silly myths and weird theories around Shakespeare's life. He pokes gentle fun at the folks who think Elizabeth I wrote the plays, or Daniel Dafoe, or the Earl of Oxford. Next he puts those who want to use Shakespeare to make their own point about sex and religion in their ignoble places. Then he swiftly goes on to the gist of the book. Did Shakespeare in some form or fashion hang on to his Catholic faith in spite of the terrible persecution of the times?

By looking at the evidence Pearce says yes, probably. His father was a discrete but resolute Catholic, his daughter Susanna was also a recussant. He was married by an ordained priest and lived in a town that was known for being a center of hard headed Catholicism. Like William Byrd he was probably excruciatingly careful--- he'd seen relatives and friends jailed and or killed for being Catholic afterall.

Quest for Shakespeare is quick, clever and charming. I'm so glad I bought it.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Agnes M. Penny on July 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By bookscdsdvdsandcoolstuff VINE VOICE on January 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a much needed antidote to several "heresies" afoot about Shakespeare. First, I point out that the author of this book is a believing Roman Catholic who takes his faith seriously, and writes very well. While there are many excellent scholars who believe in Shakespeare's Catholicity, his work can be just as well interpreted from the perspective that Shakespeare himself was an Anglican, and good Shakespeare scholars disagree on the issue. Anglican practice in many regions did not differ all that much from Catholic praxis in any event (except for the horrible destruction of art and the "stripping of the altars."). If you want proof just attend a high Anglican Mass today. In many ways it will be more Catholic than the Catholic Mass itself post 1970. There is no way we will ever know if Shakespeare was a Catholic leaning Anglican completely loyal to the crown and the Church of England, or a closeted recusant Catholic. We simply do not know. This book may make a strong case, but having read it carefully there are only two things that are beyond doubt to my mind: a) John Shakespeare (William's father) was most definitely a recusant and a Catholic. What that says about the son I cannot know, and b) William Shakespeare was in fact an author and he is in fact responsible for his body of work, although he did work at times collaboratively.

It might seem to you, gentle reader, that this statement: "William Shakespeare was the author of some of the best literature in the history of the English language," is entirely non-controversial. Settled beyond a doubt! "Of course he is!" you shout. Or, perhaps, if you are younger, with all the commitment and linguistic competence of your generation, you shrug your shoulders and mutter a simple "duh.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By robert3124 on January 5, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Enjoyable and informative overview of the reasons for believing Shakespeare was a crypto-Catholic. The skewering of the PoMo and other literature faddists is delicious and I gleefully saved Pearce's comments using the clipping feature on the Kindle for future employment at just the right time. On the other hand, I also read Robert Miola's unflattering review in First Things magazine, which struck me as unnecessarily snarky. That leads me to be less willing (although not unwilling) to consider Miola's objections seriously. My advice to any who might be interested is to read the book first, then Miola's review, then Pearce's retort, and then finally Miola's rejoinder to Pearce's retort. Stressful for the authors, but enjoyable for the audience.

To the powers that be at Ignatius Press: More! Please, MORE titles for the Kindle!!!
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