Monday, October 21, 2013

Shakespeare's Catholicism (Catholic Courses)

William Shakespeare is considered history's greatest playwright for many reasons. His way with words has yet to be matched and the stories he told still capture the attention of audiences today. Hollywood, in fact, still likes to bring his plays to life on the big screen, as can be seen in the many adaptations of Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Othello to name a few. Today, I have the privilege of reviewing another wonderful study program from Catholic Courses entitled Shakespeare's Catholicism by Joseph Pearce.

Mr. Pearce begins by discussing how to read and how to think. In both cases, he states that there is an objective way to read/think and a subjective way to read/think. The best way to read literature in his opinion is to read it through the eyes of the author. Why is all of this important? It is important because both lectures on Disc 1 are biographical in content. Mr. Pearce believes if you want to truly understand the plays of Shakespeare and their Catholicity then you have to understand the following:
  1. Who was Shakespeare?
  2. What do we know about his life?
  3. What were his beliefs?
  4. How do these beliefs inform his works, and do we see those beliefs in his works?
If you don't understand these things about Shakespeare, then your own subjective biases will creep in and color the way you read the plays. T.S. Eliot felt this way about Dante as well, and expressed it in the quote, "You cannot afford to ignore Dante's philosophical and theological beliefs, or to skip the passages which express them most clearly...You are not called upon to believe what Dante believed." Therefore, you don't have to be Catholic to see the Catholicism in Shakespeare's work; you just have to see the evidence for Shakespeare's Catholicism and expect to see the Catholicism reflected in the work. You also don't have to agree with it.

The remaining 3 discs (6 lectures) focus on the following Shakespeare plays:
  • Romeo and Juliet (2 lectures)
  • The Merchant of Venice
  • Hamlet
  • Macbeth
  • King Lear
I have recently read Joseph Pearce's book on Romeo and Juliet, so Disc 2 (Lectures 3 and 4) was a bit of a re-hash for me, but if you have not had the time to read this book, it will be fresh information to you. The most interesting lecture to me was on Hamlet, as this was my favorite play I read in high school. If you went to a secular high school like I did, you will notice a vast difference between your English teacher's interpretation and Mr. Pearce's. I vastly prefer Mr. Pearce's, but others may not. Having studied this Catholic Course, I have a new desire to re-read Hamlet or even tackle Macbeth since I never had the opportunity to study it previously. If you are a lover of Shakespeare, literature, and/or Catholicism, you will want to pick up a copy of Shakespeare's Catholicism. For a brief preview, check out the video below:

I received this course for free from Catholic Courses in exchange for an honest review.