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Through Shakespeare's Eyes: Seeing the Catholic Presence in the Plays Hardcover – 1 Jun 2010

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Product Description


What more is there to be said about William Shakespeare? Yet the supply of books on the great dramatist is never ending. Now, however, there is a new reason for this supply. The religion of Shakespeare, and specifically his Catholicism, is now recognized as a hot topic . --Peter Milward, S.J., Shakespeare scholar and author, Shakespeare the Papist.

About the Author

Joseph Pearce is the author of numerous acclaimed biographies of major Catholic literary figures. He is a Writer in Residence at Ave Maria University in Florida and Editor of the Ignatius Critical Editions series, a collection of classic literature accompanied by literary analysis from a variety of notable scholars. Among his other titles are and, C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.8 out of 5 stars 6 reviews
39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At Last! 6 Mar. 2010
By Agnes M. Penny - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Ever since reading Joseph Pearce's fascinating and informative book, Quest for Shakespeare, which proves beyond doubt Shakespeare's Catholicism, I have been eagerly awaiting the sale of his next book which would interpret his plays from a Catholic mindset. At last Through Shakespeare's Eyes came out, and my husband bought it for me right away. I was not disappointed. This book is not as quick a read as Quest for Shakespeare, as it requires slow, careful reading, but it is more than worth it. Pearce shows how Shakespeare, living in age of Catholic persecution, expresses his Catholic sentiments discreetly but poignantly in three of his plays. His treatment of "The Merchant of Venice" actually takes up more than a third of the book, which surprised me because it is not the most famous or most popular of his plays. But I was not disappointed because it was the first Shakespeare play I read and the one I am most familiar with. I was enchanted to find Catholic meaning hidden in it -- not always so subtly, either! "Hamlet" takes up most of the remainder of the book, which makes sense, as it is probably Shakespeare's most famous play, and Pearce does a wonderful job explaining its themes and its Catholic nuances. "King Lear" just takes up the last few chapters, which also makes sense, as Pearce spent a little time on "King Lear" already in his earlier book. While the reader may want to argue with a few of Pearce's interpretations here and there, overall, Pearce's study makes it clear that there is an enormous number of references in Shakespeare's plays to Shakespeare's Catholic beliefs, his theological disagreement with the Protestants, and his profound sorrow over the persecution in England which led to the deaths of so many holy priests like St. Robert Southwell. Pearce ends the book challenging other literary critics to take up where he left off in discovering the Catholicism of Shakespeare's other works. I wish he would do just one more volume on Shakespeare's Sonnets, and perhaps on "Macbeth," which (while never a favorite) is required reading in so many English courses.
33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For the Love of Shakespeare 20 Mar. 2010
By Gerard Webster, award-winning author - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Joseph Pearce first presented the historical documentation of Shakespeare's Catholicism in "The Quest for Shakespeare." Now he buttresses his earlier conclusions with evidence from three of Shakespeare's plays: The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, and King Lear. Not only does Pearce make a convincing argument for Shakespeare's Catholicism, he also addresses many of the errors proposed by modernists and post-modernist to foster some politically-correct theory du jour. In fact, Pearce convincingly points out how many of the misinterpretations of the Bard's writings arise from attempts to view them through the lens of our modern world...without taking into consideration the culture and times that Shapespeare lived in.

Indeed, it was the very atmosphere of Elizabethan England that necessitated Shakespeare's obliqueness. To be openly Catholic at that time was to incur the wrath of the Crown...with the likely consequence of fines, imprisonment, or even a horrible death. Pearce shows how Shakespeare was intimately aware of this through his knowledge of, and possible association with, the martyred Jesuit priests: Fr. Robert Southwell and Fr. Edmund Campion. He even draws parallels between Shakespeare's dramas and the life and writings of these two men.

What is most striking, however, is how Pearce presents the morality, philosophy, and theology of Shakespeare in these plays as being distinctly Catholic...and in direct conflict with the prevailing Machiavelian politics and Relativist philosophies of the day. Overall, it was a most intriguing work that should be read--not just by Catholics--but by every lover of Shakespeare.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I have always loved Shakespeare and this adds to my delight 19 Mar. 2015
By David Cools - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Truly a fascinating read. Anyone who reads Shakespeare must give this book serious thought. Where others have only found puzzles and ambiguity Mr. Pearce has offered cogent and highly delightful interpretations. I have always loved Shakespeare and this adds to my delight.
5.0 out of 5 stars A whole new perspective on The Merchant of Venice, ... 14 Jan. 2015
By Maureen Thorn - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A whole new perspective on The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet and King Lear! My daughter found this very helpful for her presentation on King Lear.
7 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor scholarship, sketchy reasoning mar the promise of the book 29 Aug. 2011
By Janet Perry - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Joseph Pearce has a problem: he doesn't write scholarship, he writes polemics. And like all polemicists he tends to have a few ideas that he wants to get across and he does so. Repeatedly. This isn't so bad when there are lots of facts and other stuff to write about, so it's less of a problem in his biographies.

But here, where he wanders into the crowded waters off Shakespeare scholarship, it's a serious defect.

He is far too quick is dismiss out of hand scholars who have interpretations of Shakespeare he doesn't like. But does he tell us who, why, or even what they say? No!

He doesn't quote them, he seems only to quote people who wrote quite awhile ago (Samuel Johnson is someone he cites and criticizes most) and only quotes current scholars (meaning in the last decade or so) when they agree with him.

I'm just supposed to take his word on what those scholars say. That's not scholarship -- that's polemic.

That's bad enough, but putting that aside there are real flaws his argument. He only looks at three plays: The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, and King Lear. He spends more than half the book on the first, less than 100 pages on the second, and 3 or 4 chapters (under 50 pages) on the third. He says Lear is the most complex and difficult of Shakespeare's plays and then gives you something that is so short and superficial that it belies his initial thoughts about the play.

For Merchant we are given a scene by scene, almost line by line, interpretation of the play. The things he says, especially about Shylock, fly in the face of every interpretation of the play I've seen. But many of his thoughts are worth exploring and he does have a unified vision of the play.

Not so with Hamlet. He sees the play as being a struggle between absolute and relative morality and sees Hamlet as always being good. I have serious problems with this because he ignores the many morally ambiguous, or even wrong, things Hamlet does in the course of the play. Nor does he ever give us even the slightest hint as to what might make it a tragedy. Does Hamlet have a tragic flaw? He never discusses it. He is more than happy to tell us Merchant is a comedy because there are marriages at the end, but the fact that the chaos of Hamlet is so complete that not only is everyone dead, but even the state is so destroyed that it is conquered by Norway without a fight is ignored. Completely.

His chapters on Lear are even worse. Again there is no mention of a flaw in Lear. Several important characters are given short shrift, including Kent, Cordelia, and Reagan. I get the juxtaposition of themes from the gospel he sees in the play. But in limiting his interpretation to just what suits his theory, he turns what is a complex, difficult play that has inspired many into a trifle.

And at the end of these chapters on Lear he questions whether the play is really a tragedy -- completely out of the blue. He has never bothered to tell us what makes a tragedy in general or why Lear doesn't qualify.

This could have been better. He could have written a book that gave more time to more difficult plays. He could have shored up his sweeping dismissals of much mainstream Shakespeare scholarship with specific discussion. If he wants his ideas to be taken seriously he needs to do that.

But then it wouldn't be polemic, would it?
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