William Shakespeare: Poet, Playwright—Catholic?

A recent film, All Is True, released this past May and starring Kenneth Branagh as Shakespeare and Ian McKellen as Shakespeare’s patron, the Earl of Southampton, purports to be a depiction of the Bard’s final years in Stratford-upon-Avon following his retirement from the London stage. Making no effort to remain true to the known facts … Read more

Be Stone No More

Professor Mark Bauerlein has recently argued in Public Discourse that liberalism, or the moral and epistemological relativism it engenders, starves literature of the narratives that alone can provide a work with meaning.  Indeed it suggests that meaning itself is an illusion; and, once that is said, art disappears, and only the wraith of escapism, or … Read more

Sir Kenneth Clark’s Mindless Civilization

I’m currently in the midst of watching Sir Kenneth Clark’s celebrated Civilisation, first broadcast by the BBC in 1969 and subsequently by PBS. I had heard so much about it, and remember watching it as a child, and was looking forward to having a guided tour of Western Civilisation by one of its most outspoken … Read more

Shakespeare Good and Great

Well did John Senior advise parents and teachers to prepare today’s youngsters for great study, with experiences of the good, such as gardening, graceful dancing, and gazing at the stars dancing above, and also making sure to delight in a thousand good books, before getting to the hundred or so great books by the master … Read more

Anything But Anonymous: Shakespeare the Catholic

Almost five hundred years after his death, William Shakespeare remains one of the most important figures in human history. Standing shoulder to shoulder with Homer and Dante, he is part of the triumvirate of literary giants who straddle the centuries as permanent witnesses of the permanent things. It is, therefore, gratifying that modern scholarship is … Read more

The Politics of Forgiveness

It is about this time in Lent, around halfway through, that one begins to wonder what the point is. Of anything, really. One purpose of the season is just that: to bring us up against impossibilities. Today, I’m thinking particularly of impossibilities in the realm I am compelled to stare into in my daily life … Read more

Friday Free-for-All: October 29

Good morning! In honor of the silliness that will be descending upon us this weekend with the arrival of Halloween, today’s wrap-up is completely devoid of any valuable news content. Consider it candy for your brain. Virtually no child has ever been harmed by the ol’ “poisoned Halloween candy” trick. So why are we still … Read more

My High Holy Day

All the decorations are up, folks are frantically shopping and preparing, and the anticipation is almost killing me as I await the brightest, best moment of the whole liturgical year: Halloween, of course. As far back as I can remember, this feast far outclassed Christmas on my personal calendar. No matter that Santa brought piles … Read more

Shakespeare in the Bush

Thanks to Mark Shea (you did read his column this morning, “Counsel the Doubtful,” didn’t you?) for sharing this hilarious read: What happens when an American anthropologist tells the story of Hamlet to some African tribesman? Laura Bohannan’s thesis that “human nature is pretty much the same the whole world over” met its match in … Read more

Celebrating ‘The Emperor,’ 100 Years Later

Yesterday marked the 100’s anniversary of the birth of the man considered by many to be the greatest, most influential film director of all time: Akira Kurosawa. Affectionately (or fearfully, perhaps) known as “The Emperor” on his sets, his visual style, thematic ideas, and absolute mastery of the medium profoundly influenced countless generations of filmmakers. Spielberg once referred to … Read more

A new play from Shakespeare?

Lewis Theobald was dismissed as a hack in the 18th century when he published Double Falsehood and claimed that it was an adaptation of a lost Shakespeare original. Now, some Shakespeare scholars believe that he was telling the truth all along: ”There is definitely Shakespearean DNA,” said English literature professor Brean Hammond, who has worked … Read more

A few days before the New Year Chippy and I spent the day studying Shakespeare.  In the morning we looked through “Shakespeare’s Complete Works” from my college days at the University of Texas, complete with my teenage marginalia. Then, I asked Chippy to read from the balcony scene in “Romeo and Juliet,” and later that … Read more

What Happens When You Teach Your Son Shakespeare

A few days before the New Year Chippy and I spent the day studying Shakespeare.  In the morning we looked through “Shakespeare’s Complete Works” from my college days at the University of Texas, complete with my teenage marginalia. Then, I asked Chippy to read from the balcony scene in “Romeo and Juliet,” and later that … Read more

More evidence that Shakespeare was a Catholic?

The argument that Shakespeare may have been a Catholic is not new, but a seminary in Rome is claiming to have evidence that is. The Venerable English College says that a guest book for visiting pilgrims contains three signatures that could indicate that the Bard traveled there during his “lost years”: Father Andrew Headon, the … Read more

Mere Theism: The Case for God

Some years ago, my kids got a computer game called Myst. It‘s a very curious game — there are no instructions, no rules, and no commentary offered at the beginning. You find yourself plunked down into a strange environment on a mysterious island. You don‘t know where you are or why you‘re there. As you … Read more


A great and growing difficulty for the Catholic Church, and all her faithful, is the disintegration of modern languages. Words used through centuries to connote deep meanings — not incomprehensible, but superficially complex — come to mean less and less. The glib use of a word such as “prophecy,” to mean only a prediction of … Read more

Claiming Shakespeare

When Joseph Pearce’s epically titled The Quest for Shakespeare was released from Ignatius Press earlier this year, the Catholic blogosphere erupted with reports that William Shakespeare was finally, 400 years after the fact, proud to be papist. Although early modernists (a.k.a. Renaissance scholars) have been pondering Shakespeare’s possible relationship with the Romish Church for decades … Read more

The Good Doctor Donne

Beethoven, Shakespeare, and the rest — how we extol them. “Oh, I do love his 7th Symphony so much!” Or, “Oh yes — ‘To be or not to be. . .’ — so powerful. So immeasurably profound.” The thing about all of this, of course, is that once one has graduated from school, the chances … Read more

Isabella and Angelo

A very tangled situation arises in one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays, Measure for Measure. This is to say nothing particularly arresting; after all, what do we come upon in any of his plays but tangled situations? We all know the agonies and cross-currents in Hamlet and Macbeth, of course. (To my own mind, King Lear … Read more

How Catholic Was Shakespeare?

Shakespeare stands as a wonderful anomaly. It could be argued that no artist in the history of the Western world enjoys both the critical and popular esteem of Shakespeare. His poems and plays continue to enchant generation after generation; his rich language saturates modern speech — whether we realize it or not. What accounts for … Read more

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