Shakespeare's Catholicism: A Critical Analysis of the Bard's Life and Plays

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In Shakespeare's Catholicism, Joseph Pearce presents biographical and literary evidence proving the Bard's adherence to the true Faith in a time of persecution and upheaval in Elizabethan England. Professor Pearce reveals little-known details of Shakespeare's life, including his Catholic education, openly Catholic father and daughter, his friendship with Jesuit martyr St. Robert Southwell, and his purchase of the Blackfriar's Gatehouse - a known hub for underground Catholic liturgy.

Romeo & Juliet
Among the plays discussed in light of Shakespeare's faith, is Romeo & Juliet - possibly the most famous love story ever told. Far from taking a popular interpretation of their star-crossed love, Professor Pearce illustrates Romeo's egocentric obsession with Juliet, the destruction of her childhood innocence, and the fault of all the mature figures in the play who fail to protect her.

Merchant of Venice

Professor Pearce tackles the charge of "anti-semitism" in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice - clearing the air for the Bard's true use of Shylock as an anti-hero. He illustrates the spiritual symbolism of the relationship between Venice and Belmont and Portia's role as a literary icon of grace, similar to Dante's Beatrice.

Examining the plot of Shakespeare's most famous and most misunderstood play, Hamlet, Pearce highlights the tension that exists between the sanity and sanctity of his heroes - who exhibit characteristics of the saints - and the sin and cynicism of his villains - who portray the Machiavellian machinations of the liar and the tyrant.

Macbeth presents two starkly different visions of kingship, according to Professor Pearce, one which is rooted in the Catholic medieval understanding of kingship, the other in the cynical pragmatism of Machiavelli's Prince. Macbeth is Hamlet's opposite - while Hamlet knows there is concrete truth and morality in life, Macbeth loses his head and soul in succumbing to relativism and his own sin-deceived ego.
King Lear

Like Hamlet, King Lear is not only one of Shakespeare's greatest plays but also one of his most abused and misrepresented. King Lear is best compared with a modern work like George Orwell's 1984 because it is a clarion cry against the abuses of centralized power. Shakespeare's play does not end with the triumph of tyranny but with the triumph of humility, and the sanctity and sanity which are its fruits.

Hear the evidence and decide for yourself - Shakespeare was a Catholic and his plays attest to his deep and powerful faith.
  1. Revealing the Catholic Shakespeare: The Biographical Evidence, Part I
    • Shakespeare, the man himself, wrote his attributed plays, not the Earl of Oxford or Francis Bacon or Christopher Marlowe or even Queen Elizabeth, as some have proposed.
  2. Revealing the Catholic Shakespeare: The Biographical Evidence, Part II
    • Professor Pearce reveals details of Shakespeare’s life, including his Catholic education, parents and family, friendship with Jesuit martyr St. Robert Southwell, and purchase of the Blackfriar’s Gatehouse.
  3. Shakespeare on Love: Romeo & Juliet, Part I
    • Far from taking a popular interpretation of their romantic star-crossed love, Professor Pearce's commentary illustrates how Romeo’s egocentric obsession with Juliet destroys her childhood innocence.
  4. Shakespeare on Love: Romeo & Juliet, Part II
    • Concluding his analysis, Professor Pearce discusses the problem of Friar Lawrence and Shakespeare's use of sterile sexual imagery to criticize Romeo and Juliet's shared passion.
  5. Shakespeare on Martyrdom & Mercy: The Merchant of Venice
    • Professor Pearce tackles the oft-heard charge of “anti-Semitism” and illustrates the spiritual symbolism of Venice and Belmont, the cruciform action of the play, and the role of Portia.
  6. Shakespeare on Spies, Lies, Sanity & Sanctity: Hamlet
    • Professor Pearce addresses questions of Hamlet's character, the ghost's authenticity, and Ophelia's innocence. He highlights Shakespeare's allusions to Elizabeth's spies, Jesuit martyrs, and the existence of Purgatory.
  7. Shakespeare on the Anti-Hamlet: Macbeth
    • Macbeth is Hamlet’s opposite—while Hamlet knows there is concrete truth and morality in life, Macbeth loses his head and soul in succumbing to relativism and sin.
  8. Shakespeare on Deadly Pride & Healing Humility: King Lear
    • The action of the play turns on Lear's conversion which is represented by the two fools—the first is worldly, and the second a Franciscan madman.
Lecture Sample

About Your Professor

Joseph Pearce is English-born Writer in Residence and Associate Professor of Literature at Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Florida In 2011, Professor Pearce was awarded an honorary doctorate of higher education from Thomas More College in New Hampshire He is also the recipient of the prestigious Pollock Award for Christian Biography.

Professor Pearce has written over fifteen books, including:
Through Shakespeare’s Eyes: Seeing the Catholic Presence in the Plays (Ignatius Press, 2010)
The Quest for Shakespeare (Ignatius Press, 2008)
Literary Giants, Literary Catholics (Ignatius Press, 2005)

An accomplished speaker, Professor Pearce lectures regularly at a wide variety of literary events at major colleges and universities in the U S , Canada, Britain, Europe, Africa, and South America.

In addition to several major newspapers, Professor Pearce’s articles have been published by Lay Witness, National Review, Distributist Review, and the National Catholic Register. He is a co-editor of the St. Austin Review, an international journal of Christian culture, literature, and ideas; editor-in-chief of Ignatius Press’ Critical Editions; and he is editor-in-chief of Sapientia Press.

Homeschooling Products

The Homeschooling Set includes the Streaming Video and Homeschooling Course Guide. Each Course Guide contains everything needed for a student to complete the course, including:

  • Lesson Plan
  • Quizzes 
  • Final Essay 
  • Lecture Notes
  • Answer Key


Joseph Pearce
Catholic Courses
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1 Review

  • 5

    Posted by Jackson E. on May 24th 2023

    These lectures are brilliant. Properly disposed viewers/listeners will come away from this course seeing the works discussed, and Shakespeare, in a whole new light, a divine light. Bravo Joseph Pearce!