Joseph Pearce’s reply is as overheated and inaccurate as his book. I shall gladly leave it to your readers to determine whether there is anything of a “shrill personal attack” or ad hominem argument in my review, or whether those appellations better describe Pearce, who preens himself on his “Bellocian bellicosity” and repeatedly mocks those who have different viewpoints as gutter-oriented scholars, silly asses of academe, and the like. In his short reply he accuses me of spleen-venting, factual errors, misleading rhetoric, sophistry, abuse, faux pas, red herrings, straw men, supercilious self-righteousness, non sequitur, and a prejudiced agenda, among other things¯that’s quite an achievement for both of us. Anyway, to his response:

1) We don’t need to look at primary sources any more because their “authenticity” is not in question? (Quick, close the grad schools, the academic presses, and scholarly journals!). That is simply an indefensible and ludicrous proposition. The authenticity of many documents, including the will, is precisely at issue, and, besides, it is the interpretation of the documents that requires first-hand examination by anyone who presumes to discuss them. Yes, all scholarly books rely on secondary sources but none worth reading do so to the exclusion of primary sources. No scholars, graduate students, or undergraduates can reliably discuss the period without looking at the evidence. All reputable Shakespeare biographies (contra Pearce) do so. That evidence primarily consists of sixteenth and seventeenth century imprints, English and Latin (and modern editions), manuscripts (for which one needs paleography skills), as well as the vast traditions of commentary. Or should we just skip all that with Pearce and just say what someone else said while ridiculing those who disagree?

2) Reading between the lines illustrates that I am unable to refute Pearce’s analysis of the will? I do not wish to refute the analysis (which actually belongs to DeGroot), however, as I am not arguing for or against it but reviewing Pearce’s inadequate account. This account, as I demonstrated, misleads the reader by misrepresenting Malone’s role, by neglecting all contrary evidence, and by ignoring all pertinent discussion after DeGroot (1946)¯Bearman, Bridgman, and everyone else. (It is not a good idea to try to read between the lines until one understands the lines themselves.) Ironically, had Pearce bothered to do his homework here, he might have made a stronger argument regarding the will, as Dennis Taylor has just done in a recent issue of The Shakespeare Newsletter .

3) Regarding John Shakespeare’s notice of recusancy, the original document in Elizabethan hand distinguishes among absentees for different reasons¯debt, death, present conformity, age and infirmity, as I note in the review. Pearce cannot even begin to discuss this document because, by his own admission, he has not read it, resting confident it has been sufficiently “authenticated,” whatever that means; but these careful distinctions warrant serious investigation and discussion. I submit that it is his responsibility to do this investigation and to take into account alternative possibilities before leaping to sensational conclusions in defiance of what the documents say. Of course, there is a lot of scholarship on John Shakespeare’s finances and debt and I could easily provide a long list to supply the deficiencies in his slight bibliography, beginning with the books I mention in the review by Park Honan and Katherine Duncan-Jones. But I think he should have read and considered all that in the first place.

4) Yes, Pearce does show some skepticism about the Shakeshafte theory but closes his discussion by saying: “It doesn’t really matter. In the quest for William Shakespeare we know that he was raised in a militantly Catholic home, whether or not he ever stayed in that other militantly Catholic home in Lancashire” (p. 78). Some skepticism. We know nothing about the religious practices of Shakespeare’s home. In any event Pearce’s memory fails him on the Campion connection, on which he actually said, “This seems the most likely means by which John Shakespeare received the copy that he used as the template for his ‘spiritual will’” (p. 36). Hardly likely at all, in the opinion of those many Pearce deigns neither to read nor to discuss, including the recent article by Davidson and McCoog, as I point out in the review.

5) The errors I list in the review are so elementary as hardly to need demonstration, and, in any event, providing documentation for Pearce’s mistakes would have swollen the review to many times its allotted length. I am happy here to provide some explanation and some preliminary references for the five “howlers” I noted:

a) On the W.S. dedication to the 1616 edition please see, for starters, the discussion of this point in the standard edition of Southwell’s works by James H. McDonald and Nancy Pollard Brown (Oxford, 1967), p. lxix.

b) On Rowe’s dubious account of Shakespeare and Jonson’s EMI (which Pearce accepts uncritically) please see any modern edition of Jonson’s play (e.g., Oxford, vol. 9, 1950, p. 168; Yale, 1969, p. 218; Revels, 2000, p. 41).

c) On the Shakespeare likenesses, consider that both the Droeshout engraving and Trinity bust, unlike the Chandos portrait, are likely to have been commissioned or at least approved by friends and family, the one by fellow actors, the other by surviving relatives in Stratford. See S. Schoenbaum’s judicious discussion in a book which Pearce lists in his bibliography, William Shakespeare: A Documentary Life (Oxford, 1975), pp. 254¯5, 258¯9.

d) The identification of the Annesley analogue for Lear (which Pearce misattributes to a modern scholar) appeared before that in articles by G. M. Young (1947) and C. Sisson (1951), and is treated in the standard compilation of Shakespeare’s Narrative and Dramatic Sources by Geoffrey Bullough (vol. 8), 1973.

e) On Sonnet 23, see an introductory handbook or essay on Elizabethan bibliography and printing (McKerrow, Gaskell, Blayney, etc.); any one will quickly disabuse Pearce of the idea that capitalization in early modern texts is authorial rather than compositorial (i.e. done by the workmen setting type by hand). As for the detection of an allusion to the Mass in Sonnet 23 as “the perfect ceremony of love’s right,” just look at the preceding line, “So I for fear of trust forget to say” and ask how it is that any non-clerical speaker can claim to “say mass,” an impossibility for Elizabethan (and later) Catholics; look also at modern commentaries on this sonnet by Stephen Booth, Helen Vendler, Colin Burrow, etc.

6) Regarding King Lear , Pearce claims that his failure to distinguish between quarto and folio texts is irrelevant to his interpretation. But how can this be true when there are huge and significant differences between the two texts, each containing different speeches and actions? To take just one example, Pearce makes much of Edgar as Catholic and climactically quotes his last speech, “The weight of this sad time, etc.,” hearing in it a lament for contemporary England and perhaps for Shakespeare’s own father (p. 198). But Edgar’s role is significantly different in the two texts, and in the quarto it is Albany, not Edgar, who says those (and other) lines. Pearce’s complete ignorance of the textual, critical, and theatrical history of the play (he does not even identify the edition he uses) disqualifies his discussion as serious consideration.

7) Pearce may be honest and may be a Christian, as he feels necessary to declare, but such assertions will not justify the hypocrisy of recreating Shakespeare in his own image while excoriating others for doing exactly the same thing. And after all, how does Pearce know that the scholars he ridicules are not honest or Christians also? And what difference can such extra-textual claims make to readers anyway? Pearce may well continue to believe that Shakespeare was a Catholic (or a Jew, or a Buddhist, for that matter), and I have little interest in trying to persuade him otherwise; but he is seriously mistaken if he thinks he has made any kind of a credible case for his views.

8) Yes, Shakespeare may well have been other things than a dramatist but we cannot know what these were without evidence and serious investigation¯both of which Pearce fails to provide. There is not a single new idea in his book; there are many errors of fact and omission. I do not know what he means by the “post(modern) academy” or how his closing remarks against it are relevant to my review. As the byline indicates, I teach at Loyola College, a Jesuit institution, where we take seriously Catholicism, belief, and scholarship, ad maiorem Dei gloriam .

Robert S. Miola is the Gerard Manley Hopkins Professor of English at Loyola College in Maryland and editor of Early Modern Catholicism: An Anthology of Primary Sources.

Articles by Robert S. Miola

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