"Shakespeare's Conspirator" -- novel

Jerry Russell

Administrator
Staff member
Weitzenkorn's site mentions a book by Ghislain Muller entitled "Was Shakespeare a Jew?" A comment at Amazon about Muller's book contains the very interesting information that an allegation was made against John Shakespeare (William's father), that the surname Shakespeare was in fact an alias for Shappere (that is, Shapiro). The informant (James Langrake) was also claiming that John Shakespeare was a usurer, which of course would go hand in glove with the accusation that he was a hidden Jew. Trying to trace this back, it seems to come from a paper by David Thomas & Norman Evans in the Shakespeare Quarterly, v. 35 (1984), as cited here: http://www.oxford-shakespeare.com/Oxmyths/OxmythsShaksper.pdf.

It is somewhat remarkable that John Shakespeare, said to have been the son of a tenant farmer, had been able to marry into the wealthy Arden family who were his parents' landlords. Perhaps slightly less remarkable if the Shapiros were also small town bankers? Although all other evidence seems to indicate pretty convincingly that John Shakespeare was theologically Catholic like the Ardens. Such a varied heritage could have led to some interesting dinner table conversations at the Shakespeare home.
 
Hi Jerry,

The notion that the father of the author of The Tempest or Titus Andronicus could have been "theologically Catholic" is logically impossible. See how the family of Aaron is treated in TA or how Isaiah 29 is made to come to life in the Tempest in my analysis at this site. Only someone having the perspective of a deeply fundamental brand of Judaism could have written those plays.

Joe
 

Jerry Russell

Administrator
Staff member
Hi Joe,

Thanks for your comments, it's nice to see you here.

Of course all the usual arguments against the Stratford man's authorship of the plays would be unaffected if it turns out that he had Jewish ancestors. If Amelia Bassano wrote the plays, the theological views or ancestry of Richard, John or William Shakespeare are of secondary interest, except as they would bear on a propaganda theory of the function of the Shakespeare plays in Elizabethan society.

However, I don't see the logic in your statement that the author's father could not have been Catholic. My objections are:

(1) Children do sometimes rebel against their parents' religion or beliefs, although I agree it's far more common that 'the apple doesn't fall far from the tree'. As an example from my own experience, my grandfather was a Marxist while my parents are capitalists. So I don't see any reason why William couldn't have harbored Jewish religious views, even if his father adopted a sincere Catholicism.

(2) The ideas of 'British Israel' had surfaced in Britain by this time, so there's no reason why British Protestants or even Catholics couldn't see themselves as heirs of the promises made to the Jews in Isaiah. Even before that, the Old Testament has always accompanied the New Testament in every Catholic bible.

(3) While Aaron is portrayed as racially Semitic, many others taking the role of 'hidden Jews' in the plays (such as Prospero or Friar Lawrence) are Northern Europeans. Thus, it's possible that the author did not view the distinction as fundamentally a racial issue.

As to the evidence that John Shakespeare was Catholic, there is his signed "spiritual last will and testament" which was hidden in the rafters of his house and discovered in 1757. (At this link, author Steve Roth claims to have detected parallels to the hidden testament in the ghost's speech in Hamlet!!) We also have John Shakespeare's appearance on a Catholic recusancy list in 1792, suggesting a durable commitment. By way of circumstantial evidence, there is the fact (as discussed by Peter Dickson) that:

Shakespeare’s parents were acquainted with or had family ties to some of the most notorious Catholics of the entire period: Edward Campion, the Cottoms, Edward Arden, John Somerville, and Richard Debdale in the 1580s. .... the Catesbys and Grants, and the Winters who sup- plied the leaders of the conspiracy to blow up King James while in Parliament, the notorious Gunpowder Plot, narrowly foiled in November 1605. William Shakespeare’s father (John) had business dealings with the Grant family and his mother was a cousin of Arden whose nephew was a Somerville and whose mother was a Grant and so on ...

Here we are not talking about ordinary “secret” Catholics, most of whom kept a low profile and conformed outwardly to the Anglican Church––earning the odd name of “Church Papists”––but about those fanatical in their loyalty to Rome, men willing to sacrifice and who in fact lost their lives in challenging the authority of Queen Elizabeth and the Anglican Church.
So now in opposition to all this, we have the informant James Langrake's accusation that John Shakespeare was a Jewish moneylender. It makes perfect sense that John Shakespeare would have wanted to hide those aspects, assuming they were true. And if the Shakespeares were bankers, it would go a along way towards explaining how they were able to afford such nice houses.

But if John Shakespeare was merely trying to conceal his Jewishness, he wouldn't have needed to become a Catholic fundamentalist just for that purpose!! That would be jumping from the frying pan into the fire.
 

Muller

New Member
"As to the evidence that John Shakespeare was Catholic, there is his signed "spiritual last will and testament" which was hidden in the rafters of his house and discovered in 1757."

If this document truly testified to the Catholic faith of William Shakespeare’s father, obviously William, who was an executor of his father’s estate, would have respected his father’s last wishes and buried it in his grave as the custom required. Consequently, it would never have been found. The fact that it was found inevitably implies that it had been forgotten by John Shakespeare at the time of his natural death, which means that he was not sincere in his intentions when writing it, therefore only writing it as an "insurance policy" in case a regime change would have brought to power a Catholic monarchy like that of the cruel and inquisitorial "bloody" Mary.
"...So now in opposition to all this, we have the informant James Langrake's accusation that John Shakespeare was a Jewish moneylender."

Langrake didn't accuse John as being a Jewish moneylender but only as a brogger, an illegal purchaser of wool. What makes his information so important is that he mentions John as : " John Shappere alias Shakespeare from Stratford Upon Haven, glove merchant", therefore ascertaining his real Jewish name.

If you didn't read the book, I'll be glad to send you a pdf.
 

Jerry Russell

Administrator
Staff member
Ghislain Muller, I presume? Welcome to our site, and thanks for saying hello.

I suppose if John Shakespeare was a secret Jew, then his presence in fanatical Catholic circles takes on the aspect of a secret agent / undercover operative. Very interesting.

The book "Was Shakespeare a Jew" was initially priced at $299 and now seems to be a collector's item, unavailable at any price less than $456.18 at Amazon. So that's a very nice offer indeed, to send us a review pdf. Thank you!!
 

Jerry Russell

Administrator
Staff member
Langrake didn't accuse John as being a Jewish moneylender
From http://www.oxford-shakespeare.com/Oxmyths/OxmythsShaksper.pdf:

James Langrake of Whittlebury, Northamptonshire, had an information exhibited before the barons. He claimed that John “Shappere alias Shakespere” of “Stratford upon Haven,” glover, had between 25 October 1568 and the date of the information, at Westminster, loaned to John Musshem of Walton D’Eiville, Warwickshire, the sum of £80. The money was to be repaid on or before the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (30 November 1568), and £20 interest was also to be paid. Langrake, like Harrison, clamed that this action was illegal and demanded that Shakespeare forfeit the money and be imprisoned and fined.
So, Langrake's claim was not necessarily that John Shakespere was running a banking business with many clients. But he did say that "Shappere" made this one loan, at an interest rate of 25% for 36 days, which is over 900% annualized.
 
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Richard Stanley

Well-Known Member
Having father and son as marrano spies for the crown would indeed make the Blackfriar's Gatehouse quite an intelligence honey pot, at the end of the hall of mirrors. Even the Knights of Columbus below are quite proud of claiming them as their own yet today:

...​
The most convincing biographical evidence for Shakespeare’s Catholicism is one of his final acts in London before retiring home to Stratford: his purchase of the Blackfriars Gatehouse in 1613. The history of this property reveals that it was, as Mutschmann and Wentersdorf described it, “a notorious center of Catholic activities.” As its name indicates, the Dominican Order owned it until the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. It was inherited by Mary Blackwell, a relative of St. Edmund Campion. Other tenants included Mary Bannister, the sister of St. Robert Southwell, and Katherine Carus, the widow of a defiantly recusant judge. According to a contemporary report sent to Lord Burghley, Carus died there “in all her pride and popery.”
In 1585, around the time that Shakespeare first arrived in London, Mary Blackwell was accused of recusancy. The following year, a government informer reported his suspicions that the house had become a center for secret Catholic activity: “It has sundry backdoors and bye-ways, and many secret vaults and corners. It has been in time past suspected, and searched for papists, but no good done for want of knowledge of the backdoors and bye-ways of the dark corners.” ...

There is quite a bit of detail reported below the excerpt, and earlier (below) a brief mention of William's relationship to the Earl of Southampton. Is this the same as that who was 'arreared' with DeVere, or is this 'pious one' the father?

After his arrival in London, Shakespeare enjoyed the patronage of the Earl of Southampton, a known Catholic who seems to have had Jesuit martyr St. Robert Southwell as his confessor. Shakespeare likely knew the Jesuit priest prior to the latter’s arrest in 1592, the year in which Shakespeare’s father was fined for being a recusant. In fact, there are many allusions to Southwell in Shakespeare’s plays.
I saw a comment on the Amazon link that the Jewish surname of Shapiro likely derives from Shappere, the shapers of gloves (and also hence the surname of Glover).
 

Seeker

Active Member
a brief mention of William's relationship to the Earl of Southampton. Is this the same as that who was 'arreared' with DeVere, or is this 'pious one' the father?
I would have to say the first Earl of Southampton mentioned, the son that Shakespeare is known to have made dedications of his work to, as the father passed away in 1581, when William was only 17.
 

Muller

New Member
"Ghislain Muller, I presume? Welcome to our site, and thanks for saying hello."

Thank you


"I suppose if John Shakespeare was a secret Jew, then his presence in fanatical Catholic circles takes on the aspect of a secret agent / undercover operative. Very interesting."

Actually, it is a bit more complicated than that. John was a secret Jew at a time where Jews were persona non grata in England and I doubt very much that he even revealed his cultural identity to his wife Mary who was a staunch Catholic. On the other hand, I doubt that he would have betrayed his wife whom he loved sincerely, or his wife's family even though they might have been involved in some dubious religious political affairs.

"The book "Was Shakespeare a Jew" was initially priced at $299 and now seems to be a collector's item, unavailable at any price less than $456.18 at Amazon. So that's a very nice offer indeed, to send us a review pdf. Thank you!!"

I am offering to send you the whole book in Pdf. Just promise me not to circulate the file outside your little circle, or ask my permission otherwise.

Cheers.
 

Jerry Russell

Administrator
Staff member
Just promise me not to circulate the file outside your little circle, or ask my permission otherwise.
My word is my bond :)

Please send the pdf to me at: <info@postflaviana.org>.

Other forum members might want to negotiate individually for their own copies.

Have you been able to contact Joe Atwill about your book? His email is: <joeatwill@gmail.com>

[Apology: I've edited my earlier posted reply, which was snarky in a friendly way, but possibly could've been taken badly...]
 
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Jerry Russell

Administrator
Staff member
Oh, dear. So you saw it. Very sorry.

I live in Eugene, Oregon. I made a most regrettable investment in an intentional community in Idaho. The community split into two factions. The story is a tragedy and a comedy, and has indeed inspired truly Shakespearean passions. I wonder whether the Bard would consider this saga a worthy topic for a play.

Have you sent the book yet? I haven't received it. Wondering if there's been a snafu.
 

Muller

New Member
Sorry to read this, my brother is very much attracted by these intentional communities down here in France. Maybe you could usefully share your expertise with him in this domain and indeed, you could turn it into a Shakespearean play, tragedy or comedy you choose it :) Have you any link with the University ? Please do share the Pdf only with trusted people. All my best.
 
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