The Quest for Shakespeare
- I saw the author speak about this book at a recent conference: he is a
true scholar, passionate, excited, honest and thorough. Blew me away.
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Title: The Quest for Shakespeare
Author: Joseph Pearce
Date Published: April 2008
Highly regarded and best-selling literary writer and teacher, Joseph
Pearce presents a stimulating and vivid biography of the world's most
revered writer that is sure to be controversial. Unabashedly
provocative, with scholarship, insight and keen observation, Pearce
strives to separate historical fact from fiction about the beloved Bard.
Shakespeare is not only one of the greatest figures in human history,
he is also one of the most controversial and one of the most elusive.
He is famous and yet almost unknown. Who was he? What were his
beliefs? Can we really understand his plays and his poetry if we don't
know the man who wrote them?
These are some of the questions that are asked and answered in this
gripping and engaging study of the world's greatest ever poet. The
Quest for Shakespeare claims that books about the Bard have got him
totally wrong. They misread the man and misread the work. The true
Shakespeare has eluded the grasp of the critics. Dealing with the
facts of Shakespeare's life and times, Pearce's quest leads to the
inescapable conclusion that Shakespeare was a believing Catholic
living in very anti-Catholic times.
Many of his friends and family were persecuted, and even executed, for
their Catholic faith. And yet he seems to have avoided any notable
persecution himself. How did he do this? How did he respond to the
persecution of his friends and family? What did he say about the
dreadful and intolerant times in which he found himself? The Quest for
Shakespeare answers these questions in ways that will enlighten and
astonish those who love Shakespeare's work, and that will shock and
outrage many of his critics. This book is full of surprises for
beginner and expert alike.
"Joseph Pearce writes piercingly brilliant books. This is one of them.
He usually writes dramatic biographies. This is not one of them. It is
not a biography and it is the least dramatic book he has written. But
it is also the most important one. To see its importance, try the
following thought-experiment. Imagine a book that convincingly proved
that Homer was a Jew, or that Milton was a lapsed Catholic, or that
Dante was a proto-Protestant. The idea would have far-ranging
consequences. It would cast a new light on everything we knew about
Homer, or Milton, or Dante. In his next book Pearce will trace the
consequences of Shakespeare's Catholicism in his plays. In this book,
he proves it historically. I mean proves it. (Pearce would make a
formidable lawyer.) The evidence is simply overwhelming."
-- Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., Boston College, Author, Summa of the Summa
"I've long suspected that there was a deep Catholic sensibility in the
plays of Shakespeare -- an emphasis on man's powerlessness without
grace, yet also an openness to the sacramentality of nature, and to
the energetic work of dutiful yet often mistrusted or despised
servants. Pearce shows that Shakespeare himself was such a dutiful
servant, ever dutiful to the Queen, but to God first. He does not leap
to conclusions, but builds a case that is meticulous, reasonable, and
-- Anthony Esolen, Ph.D., Providence College Professor of Renaissance
"Joseph Pearce has brought together here a mass of material on the
vexed question as to Shakespeare's religious affiliation -- a question
which scholars have traditionally tried sedulously to ignore. But it
is a question of more than merely neutral historic curiosity. Readers,
I feel sure, will be quickly drawn in to the matter. Once again, we
owe Mr. Pearce a great debt."
-- Thomas Howard, Ph.D. Author, Dove Descending: T. S. Eliot's Four
"What more is there to be said about William Shakespeare? Yet the
supply of books on the great dramatist is never ending. Now, however,
there is a new reason for this supply. The religion of Shakespeare,
and specifically his Catholicism, is now recognized as a `hot topic'
both in the academic and the publishing world. And now Joseph Pearce,
long recognized as a brilliant writer on great English Catholics, has
gone back in The Quest for Shakespeare to this greatest of English
Catholics, showing precisely how his greatness consists in his hidden
Catholicism. This is a book that bodes well to proving a literary
-- Peter Milward, S.J. Author, Shakespeare the Papist
"Pearce writes with historical insight on one hand and poetic
imagination on the other. Perhaps our greatest living biographer,
Pearce has the uncanny ability to get into the minds, hopes, fears,
and motivations of his subjects."
-- Bradley J. Birzer, Ph.D. Author, J. R. R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth
"Practicing the best virtues of detective, lawyer, scholar, and
storyteller, Joseph Pearce convincingly reconstructs the historical
crucible which produced the world's greatest poet. His explication of
how Shakespeare was shaped by realities of personal courage, political
danger, and eternal sacramental love will unshutter long obscured
lamps within the plays and poems for every reader."
-- Gene Fendt, Ph.D., University of Nebraska, Author, Is Hamlet a