Shakespeare's Plea for Tolerance: Catholicism and Sexuality in his Early Works
Little is known about Shakespeare's private life. Yet, much may be gleaned from a closer look at the events of his life and their influence on his writing. Building on recent scholarship about the stubborn Catholicism of Shakespeare's family and neighbors, certain conclusions may be drawn about the emotional and psychological state of Shakespeare throughout his life and of his manner of reacting to the trials of his life. Within the cycle of one year, 1996-7, key events took place which were to shape, not only the immediate work but surely the reat of his canon. What emerges throughout is a plea for Tolerance on any level — political, theological and sexual. For within this one year, Shakespeare experienced the trauma of the loss of his only son; the commission of the early sonnets and his infatuation with 'the Young Man;' the affair with the 'Dark Lady' of the later sonnets; the heartbreak of betrayal and public humiliation at the hands of both and, finally, the oddly sympathetic 'The Merchant of Venice.' Through all of these works we may see the private man in torment and witness the poet's mastery of his fate through exquisite and deeply moving poetry.
Keywords: Shakespeare's Plea for Tolerance, Catholicism and Sexuality in his Early Works
Dr. Thomas Paul Pfeiffer
Director of Theatre; Associate Professor of Theatre, Department of Communications and Theatre Arts, Salisbury University