Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Thomas Lord Cromwell

I’ve just finished reading ‘The Life and Death of Thomas Lord Cromwell.’ This is a play that was once attributed to William Shakespeare, but has since been judged by experts to be the work of someone else.

I really enjoyed this play and found it quite charming. Although the overall feel is quite unlike most Shakespeare and somewhat stilted, I still detected the odd flourish of greatness in its writing style. To me this suggests that it could possibly be an early Shakespeare work, written before the man had found his true craft and confidence. On the other hand, of course, it could have had nothing whatsoever to do with him.

I should also mention that the play is quite populist and clearly has an anti-Catholic sentiment. So it would be quite interesting if Shakespeare had wrote it, as it would go someway to disproving the theory that he was a Catholic. A theory that’s always seemed a bit odd to me, as I’ve never felt a single droplet of Catholicism in all the Shakespeare that I’ve read thus far. In fact, I find it hard to believe that any intelligent man of learning, living in England at that time, could have chosen to be Catholic. Protestant possibly, atheist maybe, agnostic more likely, but a practising Catholic - a bit of a stretch.

Anyway, regardless of all this, I really liked the play and feel it’s a shame that it isn’t more well known. Whoever wrote it, it serves as a window into an important period of English history. Shakespeare or no Shakespeare.

Addendum (Jan 2012):

I recently came across this when I was reading about ‘The History of Sir John Oldcastle,’ another play from the Shakespeare Apocrypha. It concerns Anthony Munday, an English dramatist who was supposedly in part responsible for writing ‘Sir John.’ He lived quite an interesting life and his Wikipedia entry mentions that he and a companion were robbed ‘on the road from Boulogne to Amiens.’
“By 1578 he was in Rome. In the opening lines of his English Romayne Lyfe (1582) he states that he went abroad solely in order to see strange countries and to learn foreign languages; but he may have been a spy sent to report on the English Jesuit College in Rome, or a journalist who meant to make literary capital out of the designs of the English Catholics resident in France and Italy. He says that he and his companion, Thomas Nowell, were robbed of all they possessed on the road from Boulogne to Amiens, where they were helped by an English priest, who entrusted them with letters to be delivered in Reims.”
This reminded me a little of the passage in ‘Thomas Lord Cromwell’ were he and his serving man Hodge get robbed for all their worth by the Banditti whilst on the continent. I couldn’t help but wonder if this true tale served as some type of inspiration for the fictional story. Mind you, saying that I’m sure thievery of this sort was probably quite a common hazard for travellers in those days. Either way I thought it was something worth keeping behind the ear.

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