The case for William Shakespeare being a Catholic sympathiser who left political messages in his work has been strengthened after new research found evidence of coded references in one of his most famous works.
Although the Elizabethan playwright is often regarded as being largely apolitical, Clare Asquith, the Countess of Oxford and Asquith, has now suggested that his early poem The Rape of Lucrece, at almost 2,000 lines, is neither a poem nor about the rape of a Roman noblewoman but is actually a political pamphlet in which the Bard decries England’s persecution of the Catholic population.
Lady Asquith has reinterpreted the 1594 work as an account of the 1534 Act of Supremacy and the destruction of old Catholic England following King Henry VIII’s establishment of the Church of England.
In The Rape of Lucrece, Lucrece, the wife of Collatine, is raped by Tarquin, the son of the king of Rome. This horrific crime leads to an insurrection, led by Collatine’s friend Brutus, which results in the first Roman Republic.
In her study, Lady Asquith has interpreted the violence as a code for the systematic destruction of the Catholic Church in England, including the tearing down of the Church’s infrastructures and the selling off of its land and property.
“His audience would have understood the references contained in the poem, whether it was the King, the Court or its victims,” Lady Asquith said. “The Catholics and the reformers were the victims and he uses terminology that would have provided comfort to them and makes a plea to the court for tolerance.
“The Rape of Lucrece is an extended allegory for what happened to England, to the Catholics and the reformers at the hands of the newly established church and the Privy Council, led by William Cecil, the man who set up the first secret services and had a file on pretty much everyone,” she added.
Picture: Secret Catholic? Shakespeare placed coded references in his work, claims Lady Asquith.