A well-argued Shakespeare theory that could strengthen the case for his Catholic sympathies.

A TALE TOLD SOFTLY

SHAKESPEARE'S THE WINTER'S TALE AND HIDDEN CATHOLIC ENGLAND

A debut work of literary criticism analyzes The Winter’s Tale as a Roman Catholic allegory.

Though it is not often remembered, Shakespeare was born only a generation after the English Reformation, when the Church of England split from the Catholic Church and began to violently repress any who attempted to continue practicing Catholicism. Many have argued that Shakespeare himself bore latent Catholic sympathies, which are subtly alluded to in a number of his plays. Morrison takes it a step further by claiming that one play in particular, The Winter’s Tale (probably written in 1610 or 1611), is a hidden religious allegory presenting the beliefs and fears of Catholics living in secret under the oppressive reign of James I. While that might at first seem like an extreme claim, the author makes a textual argument “that relies upon surprisingly numerous and straightforward correlations between the language, themes, and plots in the play and the generally unambiguous and well-documented political realities of religious life in Shakespeare’s England.” The Winter’s Tale tells the story of a paranoid king who destroys his family, forcing his followers to make the difficult choice of whether to obey his orders or do what is right. Morrison argues that the play, which is at first tragic but ultimately has a happy ending, provides not only a criticism of the English crown’s treatment of Catholics, but also a model for reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants that Shakespeare hoped would one day come to pass. By examining the dialogue as well as some of the more idiosyncratic narrative choices and uses of geography, Morrison attempts to resurrect one of Shakespeare’s less popular works and reveal it for what it actually is: an ingenious act of political subversion and censorship evasion that only history’s greatest playwright could have pulled off. For a piece of literary criticism, Morrison’s prose is accessible and fluid: “When Leontes asks Camillo to poison Polixenes, Shakespeare illustrates one of the chief threats to Catholic doctrine and sacraments: pressure from secular powers to influence church policies and practices.” He takes care not to assume that readers know much about the play, its author, the time period in which it was written, or the backstory of the Anglican-Catholic schism. Readers do not need to have read The Winter’s Tale beforehand, and Morrison kindly recounts the plot first in summary and then in great detail. (In fact, being unfamiliar with the play may make readers more susceptible to his thesis.) But even readers who have previous associations with Leontes, Camillo, Antigonus, and the other characters should find it easy to become invested in Morrison’s argument, and will likely be flabbergasted by the connections he draws. The author’s claims are ultimately quite persuasive, though his theory may be the type that leads people back to the conclusions they already wanted to believe. Nevertheless, mysteries have long been a part of Shakespeare appreciation and Morrison identifies plenty of new places to look for clues.

A well-argued Shakespeare theory that could strengthen the case for his Catholic sympathies.

Pub Date: June 30, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4905-6942-0

Page Count: 242

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2018

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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