Author(s): Clare Asquith
A revolutionary new look at how Shakespeare secretly addressed the most profound political issues of his day, and how his plays embody a hidden history of England.
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It is rare when a work of such painstaking scholarship is so dramatic, important and exciting to read. Lucidly and persuasively, Clare Asquith takes us through the complexities of religious politics in Elizabethan England, and reveals the anguished debates hidden in Shakespeare's plays. Shadowplay solves many of the puzzles that have perplexed scholars over the years, dramatically enhances our understanding of the dramas of our greatest playwright and, in my view, will lead to a seismic shift in our understanding of our past." Piers Paul Read "Clare Asquith is an inspired and compelling code-breaker - her fascinating study takes us into the concealed heart of the English identity and shows that the Catholic Shakespeare was an exemplary and committed writer, not simply the famously protean bard who resists all attempts to pin down his beliefs. Shadowplay is a remarkable and exciting work of scholarship which shows us the deep structures of Shakespeare's imagination." Tom Paulin, G. M. Young Lecturer in English at Hertford College, Oxford, editor of The Faber Book of Political Verse (1986) and The Faber Book of Vernacular Poetry (1990) "... even if only half of Clare Asquith's argument turns out to be correct, she's written the most visceral, challenging, compelling book on Shakespeare's place in history we've had for over 20 years." Dr John Guy, Winner of the Whitbread Biography Award, 2004 'This book shows us the enticing possibilities of what is certainly needed, a reading of the works which, with real inwardness, takes seriously their rootedness in the poet's increasingly discernible intent: to speak for (and to) a network of men and women living double lives within the English establishment, and to deploy the freshly available resources of English and European poetic and dramatic form in memorializing those lives by making them transcend their time and their predicament.' John Finnis, Professor of Law and Legal Philosophy, University College Oxford "The politics of language is back in fashion, and in this book we have a daring excursus into the field of oppositional discourse in the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods. Here we are introduced to the workings of a dissident religion that very much dares, even if in code, to speak its name. Scholars will have to think again about how far Shakespeare's faith and his view of the Reformation, inflected contemporaries' understanding of the controversies over the Church in England." Dr Michael Questier, Lecturer in Early Modern British and European history Queen Mary College, University of London" "Clare Asquith's textual criticism is a marvel; eminently readable scholarship". Sir John Keegan, Daily Telegraph Defence Editor and author of The Face of Battle "So mysteriously little is chronicled about Shakespeare that his life, nature and beliefs lie open to endless speculation. What Clare Asquith has done in Shadowplay is to infinitely widen our perception of who he was. She shows how, despite the rule of terror successfully imposed by the father and son, William and Robert Cecil, Shakespeare throughout his play converses with his contemporary audience in an entirely accessible code that has been lost until now by us. This book is a masterpiece of sustained scholarship that reads like a detective novel." Harriet Waugh "A literary detective story, which is quite riveting." Antonia Fraser
Clare Asquith has lectured on Shakespeare in England and Canada. An article on The Phoenix and the Turtle was published in 2001 by the TLS and an essay on Love's Labour's Lost appeared this year in Shakespeare and the Culture of Christianity in Early Modern England. She lives in Somerset.