Saturday, June 14, 2008

Pearcing Comments on Shakespeare

Joseph Pearce was the keynote after-dinner speaker and was marvellous as usual.

He mainly summarized the arguments of his new book, The Quest for Shakespeare, which everyone on earth should read.

But along the way he came up with some great quotes and gave in passing the best overview of the theory of literary criticism that I have ever heard. When asked by an audience member what he thought of Claire Asquith's book which saw coded Catholic language in all of Shakespeare, Pearce said the following ...

"A work of art should not be looked at through a microscope as Claire Asquith does, studying a myriad of disconnected details; nor should it be looked at through a telescope as Fr. Millwood did when he read beyond a work to vast things the work was implying or aiming at. A work of art should be seen as a whole - a work of literature should be examined on the basis of its primary story, not its hidden message."

He went on, "And since the inspiration for a work of art comes from Grace or the Muse, and passes through the artist, who is the sub-creator, the purity of the gift is transformed by the prism of the artist. If the artist is twisted, he twists the inspiration and comes up with a perverse work; if he intends better things, then his work will shine forth some of God's glory. So to begin to study the work, one should study the artist."

Which is what Pearce has done with his case for the Catholic Shakespeare. In volume one, he examines the documentary evidence of whether Shakespeare was Catholic (and the evidence is overwhelming that he was); and in volume two he will examine several of Shakespeare's plays themselves for their Catholic point of view.

All in all, unlike the bulk of literary critics at work in the academy today, Joseph Pearce brings common sense to bear.

And thus, in reading as well as in writing (as any Chestertonian will tell you) the glory of God shines forth.

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