Tag: Shakespeare

Speak Up!

Speak Up! posted in Eleison Comments on December 28, 2019

If there have been great minds from the past, it is because they will have been thinking on great matters, which means, explicitly or implicitly, matters of God, and if they were truly great minds, their thinking will have been not just destructive. One such mind was certainly England’s Shakespeare. As a Catholic he grappled with his country’s apostasy being fulfilled just as he was reaching his prime, around 1600. But that turning of England to Protestantism meant that if he did not want to be hanged, drawn and quartered, he had to disguise his Catholic message, as Clare Asquith proved in her book of 2005, “Shadowplay,” where she took English literature way above English “patriots” and the dwarves of literary criticism.

To take just one example, in the book’s Appendix on Shakespeare’s Sonnet 152, she shows how from start to finish, beneath the obvious application to a woman Shakespeare has known, there is a complete second meaning of far wider application to himself as a writer who has failed to warn his countrymen as he should have done. Here are the 14 lines of the sonnet together with their obvious meaning:—

In loving thee thou know’st I am forsworn
But thou art twice forsworn to me love swearing,
In act thy bed-vow broke and new faith torn,
In vowing new hate after new love bearing.
But why of two oaths’ breach do I accuse thee,
When I break twenty? I am perjured most,
For all my vows are oaths but to misuse thee,
And all my honest faith in thee is lost;
For I have sworn deep oaths of thy deep kindness,
Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy,
And, to enlighten thee, gave eyes to blindness,
Or made them swear against the thing they see.
    For I have sworn thee fair: more perjured eye,
    To swear against the truth so foul a lie.

You know I break a promise by loving you, but by
swearing you love me, you break two promises: you
forsook your husband’s bed, then returned to him
(“new faith,” “new love”) only to forsake him again.
But why do I accuse you of breaking two oaths when
I break twenty oaths? It is I the greater perjurer, for
To your own harm I have sworn oath upon oath about
your goodness when I well knew you were not good.
Thus I have been swearing that you are very kind,
very loving, very truthful, very constant, and to
put you in a good light, I have made me see what I
Did not see, or, have sworn I saw not what eye saw.
    For I have sworn you were good. What terrible
    Perjury on my part, when that is so untrue!

Interestingly, the sonnet’s text makes more sense in its hidden meaning, referring to faithless England, than in its apparent meaning, referring to Shakespeare’s unfaithful mistress. Thus “Merrie Englande” had been a faithful wife of the Catholic Church for 900 years. By Henry VIII’s Act of Supremacy (1534), (“In Act”) England broke its marriage (“bed-vow”) with the Catholic Church and took Protestantism as its lover. Then it remarried the Catholic Church under Mary Tudor (1553, “new faith,” “new love”), only to fall back into adultery with Protestantism under Elizabeth I (1558, “new faith torn,” “new hate” of the Catholic Church). But Shakespeare (1564–1616) blames himself for much worse infidelity, because down these years he has repeatedly glorified (“to enlighten thee”) England with its unfaithful Tudor rulers, for instance in his History Plays, glorified to England’s harm (“to misuse thee”), because as a Catholic he knew full well that Protestantism would be the ruin of “Merrie Englande.” Sure enough!

And today? The pattern repeats itself: for over 1900 years Catholics were faithfully married to the true Church, but with Vatican II (1962–1965) the mass of them followed bad leaders into more or less of adultery with the modern world (“bed-vow broke”). Then Archbishop Lefebvre (1905–1991) led many back to the truly Catholic Church (“new faith,” “new love,” or renewal of the old faith and the old love), only to see his successors at the head of the Society of St Pius X which he founded in 1970 fall back into an adulterous longing for a reunion with Conciliar Rome, by a “new hate” for the pre-Conciliar truth.

Conclusion? Any Shakespeares amongst us, or any Catholics, must speak up, that Pachamama Rome is, as such, nothing other than an abomination, to be shunned.

Kyrie eleison.

Hamlet = Apostasy

Hamlet = Apostasy posted in Eleison Comments on January 5, 2019

If Hamlet is possibly the most puzzling, probably the most interesting, and certainly the most modern amongst all 37 of Shakespeare’s stage plays, it is all for the same reason – there is an elephant in the room. That elephant is England’s apostasy from the Catholic Faith which was being hammered home by the English government when Shakespeare wrote the play, around 1600 AD, and which was driving him to despair because he was a devout Catholic. So (1) Hamlet is the most puzzling of his plays for the mass of post-Catholic readers or theatre-goers or critics who have no inkling of the “Reformation” as being the greatest disaster ever to befall England. (2) It is the most interesting of the plays because it is pivotal and conflictual between the past Middle Ages and the coming Modern Age. (3) It is the most modern, because over the last 400 years virtually the entire world has come to share in England’s apostasy.

(1) But who cares about apostasy today? How many people even know what the word means (a falling away from the Catholic Faith)? There was a time, like 1600 in England, when the Devil fiercely persecuted the Faith, so that Shakespeare had to disguise the Faith in his plays in order not to be hanged, drawn and quartered. But today the Devil ruins many more souls by making them take it for granted that religion is of so little importance that anybody can choose any religion he likes, or none. The vile media are so awash in error and immorality that the mass of people do not even notice them any more. See Clare Asquith’s book Shadowplay for the Catholic coding in all Shakespeare’s plays. But if Hamlet’s incestuous mother, Queen Gertrude, does indeed represent England committing incest with Protestantism, his uncle, is it any wonder if our contemporaries can see no proportionate reason for Prince Hamlet’s melancholy?

(2) The play is pivotal and conflictual because, like no other of Shakespeare’s plays, it is suspended between the medieval world and the New World Order, because Shakespeare himself was being shaken to the core by the seeming success of the stamping out of the Faith in his beloved country, as can be read in the play from the bitterness of the Prince towards almost everyone around him, especially his true love, Ophelia. Now a Catholic is not bitter, but Shakespeare was bitter, in writing Hamlet. It did not last. Read John Vyvyan’s immensely valuable book, The Shakespearean Ethic, if you want to discern that moral pattern underlying all the plays which was Shakespeare’s glorious heritage from medieval England. It is even present in Hamlet, notably in the Prince’s spurning of Ophelia to make room in his heart for revenge, but in Hamlet as in no other play the corruption of society – by apostasy, no less – is so terrible that the anti-social Prince comes over as an absolute hero, the first in a long line of anti-authoritarian heroes (cf. Hollywood) needing to override all natural respect for social authority. Apostasy kills society.

(3) And so Hamlet is the most modern of the Shakespeare plays because it is the play which most departs from, or overlays, the medieval model. Shakespeare wrote many plays after Hamlet, but he was never again tempted to replace love by vengeance, or to return from the New to the Old Testament. He regained his calm and balance while still writing superb plays, but in 1611 he abandoned the stage and London to leave the Puritans to take over England and lead eventually all the world away from God. By today generations of young men suckled on anti-heroes have turned into anti-men, with little to nothing left in them of their medieval heritage. But human nature has not changed, and human beings still need men to lead, which is why the girls are trying to make themselves into men, and the two young sexes more and more spurn one another. In a line from Macbeth, “Confusion now hath made his masterpiece.”

If you read Hamlet, beware of the Ghost in Act One. If you are Catholic you know that Almighty God would never let out of Purgatory a soul to pursue revenge. Then where can the Ghost come from, other than from Hell? In which case, is the Prince really such a hero? Shakespeare’s bitterness was understandable, but it twisted his theology. Young men, adore and love Jesus Christ, love His Mother, pray her Rosary and lead the girls. That is what they need you for.

Kyrie eleison.

American Shakespeare?

American Shakespeare? posted in Eleison Comments on March 17, 2012

A number of people will find it absurd to compare anybody involved in modern cinema with one of the greatest poets and dramatists of all time, but St. Patrick’s Day may be the right moment to commemorate a great son of Ireland, the American film-director John Ford (1895–1973), by pointing out a few similarities between his career and that of William Shakespeare (1564–1616). A John Ford may be as close as our poor modern age can get to producing a Shakespeare – let’s see:—

To begin with, both men were highly successful popular entertainers. Shakespeare set out to write not English Literature but scripts for the Globe Theatre company, always in need of new plays to put on stage. Between 1592 and his exile from the London stage less than 20 years later, he wrote some 35 plays of all kinds: history plays, comedies, tragedies, romances. They were all popular, because Shakespeare was so involved in the Globe Theatre and so close to its audience. As for John Ford, to satisfy the insatiable demand of the American film-going public for new films, between 1917 and 1970 he directed, with a company of actors appearing repeatedly, over 140 films, which mix, like Shakespeare, comic and serious, high life and low life. Many of these films were great box-office hits, because Ford like Shakespeare knew his public.

Both men were highly successful because they were story-tellers, stories being the heart of popular entertainment. Both men grip their audiences and hold them in suspense – what happens next? And as story-tellers can have considerable influence, so both men helped to mould their nations’ character. By his history plays acting as propaganda for the recently established Tudor dynasty, Shakespeare has permanently influenced Englishmen’s view of themselves coming out of the Middle Ages. Ford likewise had a keen sense of American history (e.g. The Last Hurrah), and by creating the myth of the “Western” that fabricated America’s “Wild West,” he so defined the American national character as to have made people associate Americans with cowboys ever since.

Both men served a serious apprenticeship to their craft, Shakespeare on the boards of the Globe Theatre, Ford by spending several years as a cameraman before graduating to the direction of films. Shakespeare as a poet is an incomparable wordsmith, yet Ford’s poetry might be his camera work. Film directors without number have watched his films to learn how to use the camera because Ford had an eye for the detailed composition of his pictures in movement, or “movies.” When asked to name the film directors who most appealed to him, another famous film director, Orson Wells, replied, “I like the old masters, by which I mean John Ford, John Ford and John Ford.” Yet another film-maker compared Ford’s films for the “simplicity and strength” of their style to middle-period Beethoven!

Finally both men were Catholics. The deepest drama of Shakespeare’s plays arises surely from his Catholic sense, necessarily disguised, of the tragedy of Merrie England’s irreversible slide into apostasy. John Ford was the tenth of eleven children of two immigrants to the United States, both born in Catholic Ireland. No doubt the Faith of his ancestors enabled him to commemorate the relative innocence and decency of yesterday’s America, with its womanly women, and its manly and upright heroes as typified in Ford’s films by John Wayne. A king of modern cinema may never make it to the Pantheon of all-time greats alongside a Shakespeare, but John Ford was that modern king.

Thank you, Ireland, and America. Happy St. Patrick’s Day to both of you!

Kyrie eleison.

Angelism – II

Angelism – II posted in Eleison Comments on February 18, 2012

Alert readers of these “Comments” may have picked up on an apparent contradiction. On the one hand the “Comments” have repeatedly condemned anything modern in the arts (e.g. EC 114, 120, 144, 157, etc.). On the other hand last week the Anglo-American poet T.S.Eliot was called an “arch-modernist,” and praised for launching a new style of poetry more true to modern times, certainly chaotic.

As the “Comments” have often said, modernity in the arts is characterized by disharmony and ugliness, because modern man chooses more and more to live without or against the God who has planted order and beauty throughout his creation. This beauty and order are now so buried beneath the pomps and works of godless man that it is easy for artists to believe they are no longer there. If then their art is to be true to what they perceive of their surroundings and society, only an exceptional modern artist will convey anything of the divine order underlying the disordered surface of modern life. Most modern artists have given up on order and, like their customers, wallow in the disorder.

But Eliot was born and reared in the late 19th century when society was still relatively ordered, and he received in the USA a good classical education when only a few secret villains yet dreamt of replacing education with training in inhuman subjects. So Eliot may have had little or no access in his youth to true religion, but he was well introduced to its by-products since the Middle Ages, the classics of Western music and literature. Sensing and seeking in them an order missing around him, Eliot was thus able to grasp the deep-down disorder of the rising 20th century, a disorder which merely burst out in the first World War (1914–1918). Hence the “Waste Land” of 1922.

But in that poem he is far from wallowing in the disorder. On the contrary he clearly hates it, showing how empty it is of human warmth and value. So the “Waste Land” may bear little trace of Western religion, but it does finish on scraps of Eastern religion, and as Scruton says, Eliot was certainly tracking the religious depths of the problem. In fact a few years later Eliot nearly became a Catholic, but he was scared off by Pius XI’s condemnation in 1926 of the “Action française,” a condemnation in which he recognized more of the problem and not its solution. So out of gratitude to England for all it had given him of traditional order, he settled for a solution less than complete, combining Anglicanism with high culture, and a Rosary always in his pocket. However God does write straight with crooked lines. How many souls in search of order would have stayed away from Shakespeare or Eliot if they thought that either of them, by being fully Catholic, had answers only pre-fabricated, not true to life.

That is sad, but it is so. Now souls may well be deceiving themselves in one way or another if they shy away from Catholic authors or artists on the grounds that these are untrue to real life, but it is up to Catholics to give them no such excuse. Let us Catholics show by our example that we do not have minds made cosy by artificial solutions necessarily false to the depths of the modern problem. We are not angels, but earthy creatures invited to Heaven if we will pick up our modern cross and follow Our Lord Jesus Christ. Such followers can alone remake the Church, and the world!

Kyrie eleison.

Deadly Angelism

Deadly Angelism posted in Eleison Comments on February 11, 2012

Discerning what made T.S.Eliot (1888–1965) “indisputably the greatest poet writing in English in the 20th century,” a conservative English writer of our own day, Roger Scruton, has some interesting things to suggest to Catholics hanging on to their Faith by their fingertips in these early years of the 21st century – briefly, in the pain is the solution! If we are being crucified by the world around us, that is the Cross we are meant to be carrying.

Eliot was in poetry an arch-modernist. As Scruton says, “He overthrew the 19th century in literature and inaugurated the age of free verse, alienation and experiment.” One may well question whether Eliot’s final combination of high culture and Anglicanism is a sufficient solution to the problems he was tackling, but who can deny that with his famous poem, the “Waste Land” of 1922, he blazed the trail for contemporary English poetry? The enormous influence of his poems demonstrated at least that Eliot had his finger on the pulse of the times. He is a modern man, and he tackled head on the problem of modern times, summed up by Scruton as “fragmentation, heresy and unbelief.”

However, the “Waste Land” could not be the masterpiece that it is if it did not make some sense out of the chaos. It is in fact a brilliant portrait in a mere 434 lines of the shattered European “civilisation” that emerged from the ruins of World War I (1914 -1918). And how did Eliot manage to do that? Because as Scruton says, Eliot the arch-modernist was also an arch-conservative. Eliot had soaked himself in the great poets of the past, notably Dante and Shakespeare, but also in more modern masters such as Baudelaire and Wagner, and it is clear from the “Waste Land” that it is Eliot’s grasp of the order of the past that enabled him to get a handle on the disorder of the present.

Scruton comments that if then Eliot blew away the great romantic tradition of 19th century English poetry, it is because that romanticism no longer corresponded to the reality of his age. “He believed that his contemporaries’ use of worn-out poetic diction and lilting rhythms betrayed a serious moral weakness: a failure to observe life as it really is, a failure to feel what must be felt towards the experience that is inescapably ours. And this failure is not confined, Eliot believed, to literature, but runs through the whole of modern life.” The search for a new literary idiom on Eliot’s part was therefore part of a larger search – “for the reality of modern experience.”

Now have we not seen, and do we not see, the same “serious moral weakness” inside the Church? One may call “Fiftiesism” that weakness of the Church of the 1950’s which was the direct father of the disaster of Vatican II in the 1960’s. What was it if not a refusal to look squarely at the modern world for what it is? A pretence that everything was nice, and everybody was nice? A pretence that if I just wrap myself up in an angelist sentimentality, then the problems of the Church in the Revolutionary world will just float away? And what is now the pretence that Rome really wants Catholic Tradition if not the same essential refusal of modern reality? As Eliot taught us that sentimentality is the death of true poetry, so Archbishop Lefebvre showed us that it is the death of true Catholicism. The arch-conservative Archbishop was the truest of modern Catholics.

Catholics, today’s reality may be crucifying us in any one of its many corrupt ways, but rejoice, again, says St Paul, rejoice, because in our own acceptance of our modern Cross today is our only salvation, and the only future for Catholicism

Kyrie eleison.

Don’t Borrow

Don’t Borrow posted in Eleison Comments on July 2, 2011

The latest financial bailout of Greece, announced last week, has once more put off the day of reckoning for the European Union and maybe for the worldwide financial system, but that day is merely postponed, not cancelled. The problem is systemic. If democratic politicians want to be re-elected, they must borrow to pay for the free lunches on which they themselves have made the peoples insist, but the folly for individuals, families or nations of taking out loans upon loans cannot last for ever, and one day it comes to a crashing halt. Such peoples and politicians have today long been on the wrong road, because the decision to heap up loans is ultimately stupid or criminal.

It is stupid if the basic wisdom has been forgotten of three lines of Shakespeare, worth volumes written by professional “economists”:— “Neither a borrower nor a lender be / For loan oft loses both itself and friend / And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.” In other words a habit of borrowing accustoms one to not “husbanding” or looking after the resources one has. For instance, at least to begin with, money borrowed comes too easily, thus undermining the sense of money’s value and the sense of reality, for instance how hard money can be to earn or eventually to pay back. As for lending, says Polonius (Hamlet, I, 3), not only are loans often not paid back, but also if I have lent to a friend who cannot pay back, he can be too afraid or ashamed to come near me again.

However, not all lenders are stupid. A number of them are criminal, because they know that by lending money at usurious rates of interest they can reduce individuals, families and nations to poverty and slavery – “The borrower is servant” (or slave) “to him that lendeth” (Prov. XXII, 7). Certain credit cards are now paying between 20 and 30% rates of interest, yet the Catholic Church has always severely condemned usury. Usurers are criminals who destroy the fabric of society by impoverishing and enslaving their fellow men, or whole nations.

In modern times usury takes different forms, say the Popes, and this is why the whole world should now be waking up to the fact that it has let itself be enslaved by the cunning money-men, who use their money to master the media and politicians in particular, and thus buy control of an entire society giving itself over to Mammon. The question then arises, how can God have allowed such a state of affairs to come about, and how can he now be meaning to allow the immense suffering that will come with the imminent financial crash and/or World War, both of which will have been engineered by his enemies to give them, as they hope, total world power?

The answer is that he has granted such power to his enemies because their cruelty and inhumanity serve him as a scourge to be laid across the back of a world that has turned away from him, and has preferred to take Mammon for its master – you cannot serve both God and Mammon, says Our Lord (Mt. VI, 24). And God will allow a great deal more suffering in the near future, because “In suffering is learning” (Aeschylus), and in fact only heavy suffering will today be enough to enable any significant number of souls worldwide to learn that their materialism and worship of Mammon are treacherous enemies of their one true interest, the salvation of their eternal souls.

Mother of God, obtain mercy for us poor sinners!

Kyrie eleison.