September 2, 2005

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

William Shakespeare’s Catholic connections

After Mass one Sunday, my husband and I joined another couple at a bagel shop for breakfast. During conversation, they mentioned the film Hamlet, starring Catholic actor Mel Gibson, but they could not recall the name of the actress portraying Hamlet’s mother. Later, while walking in a mall, the wife suddenly turned to her husband with the name, “Glenn.” Her husband’s instant response was “That’s close.”

It certainly was—Glenn Close portrayed Hamlet’s mother in the 1990 movie.

Since our friends owned the video, they loaned it to me. Although I have viewed other versions, this one thrilled and touched me the most. In a nutshell, the play deals with moral integrity vs. the need to avenge a father’s death; but this “nutshell” does not do Shakespeare’s work justice. I recommend readers view it for themselves.

I checked the Internet for more information. At I found the best review written by Debra Murphy of Salem, Ore. Contacting her, I learned that Bardolotry began in 1998 as one of Clan Murphy’s family projects. She and her husband, Dan, have six children ages 24 to 7. “We’re Shakespeare fanatics,” she said. For the most part, she and her son, John, 21, write the reviews while son, Kevin, 20 handles the webmaster duties.

Murphy is also a contributing editor for (where she recently wrote about Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ film) and she is the author of The Mystery of Things, a newly published literary and metaphysical thriller. I am currently reading this remarkable book, which I find better written than Dan Brown’s notorious novels.

Set in Milwaukee, the book’s Catholic and Shakespearean themes hold my interest well. This was published by Idylls Press, founded last year by the author and her husband with the intention of publishing Catholic fiction and spirituality. See or

“Are you aware of the growing conviction among a number of Shakespeare scholars that Shax (a nickname for the Bard) was a Catholic and that there are many subtle allusions in his plays to pro-Catholic themes?” she asked. No, I did not realize that, nor did I know that “there are many allusions in his plays to pro-Catholic themes.” Murphy said this was “the age of English martyrs, such as Jesuit Father Edmund Campion, whom Shax may have actually met.”

“Writers had to be very careful about what they wrote on the Protestant/Catholic conflict during that time,” Murphy added, so “they tended to make coded comments that the audience understood but were still deniable” with authorities. When I first corresponded with Murphy, she was writing a “GodSpy” review/interview about Clare Asquith’s new book, Shadowplay, which addresses these coded messages.

I find this fascinating.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †


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