2006 Conference - The English ReformationDeep in HistoryUncategorized

Shakespeare and the Catholic Recusants of the English Reformation – Joseph Pearce

January 25, 2017 One Comment

In this lecture for the 2006 Deep in History conference, literary biographer Joseph Pearce looks at the English Reformation, and specifically recusants- those English under the rule of Anglican monarchs who retained their Catholic faith.  Pearce explores the legal burdens placed on these people, and how they strove, often covertly, to preserve Catholic practice and traditions under persecution.  Pearce also looks at the Shakespeare family, and makes the case that they were among those recusant Catholics who stayed loyal to Rome under Anglican rule.

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Read Joseph’s own story in From Atheism to Catholicism: Nine Converts Explain Their Journey Home.

Study Questions:

-What were the three areas of Catholicism in England and how did they affect the legacy of the English Reformation?

-How is Shakespeare’s family an apt example of English Catholic recusants?

-Does Pearce make a convincing argument that Shakespeare was a Catholic recusant?


Recusant Catholics: English Catholics who refused to attend Church of England services. They were referred to by the English government officially as “Popish Recusants.”

Shakespeare: An English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England’s national poet. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.