Sometime in that month he would have heard the news that Pope Pius V had died, on 1 May.
|Pope Pius V|
Pius had held the office since 1566, and he was arguably the one Pope who most shaped Shakespeare's mind regarding the Catholic Church.
In 1570, Pope Pius -- who preferred the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots over the Protestant Queen Elizabeth -- had issued the Regnans in Excelsis.
|Pope Gregory XIII|
For people like young William Shakespeare, this religious tempest was far from over.
|Pope Sixtus V|
Sixtus continued the antagonistic policy against Queen Elizabeth.
|Pope Urban VII|
He was Pope for only 13 days!
|Pope Gregory XIV|
He is perhaps most famous for excommunicating Henry IV, the new king of France.
In his short time as Pope, Gregory XIV fanned the flames of the French Wars of Religion -- which would inspire assassins to try and kill Henry IV in 1593 and 1594. Henry would ultimately be assassinated by a Catholic fanatic in 1610.
|Pope Innocent IX|
|Pope Clement VIII|
In this time when Shakespeare may have allowed himself to hope again for religious peace, his son Hamnet died. He was only 11 years old.
When Shakespeare wrote The Merchant of Venice not long after, I think he was expressing not only the grief of having lost his son, but he was also venting his frustrations at Catholic Rome. His portrayal of conniving and lewd Venetian Catholics is very bawdy and funny, but also very cynical.
Queen Elizabeth died in March 1603.
|Pope Leo XI|
Pope Paul V was next. His Catholic diplomacy is described as “hard-edged.” He obviously was not interested in following in the footsteps of Clement, and preferred to follow in the footsteps of Pius V.
|Pope Paul V|
The fear of religious violence, like the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in Paris, or the Massacre at Vassy, haunted every last man, woman and child.
Shakespeare wrote many plays that included ghosts. It suggests to me at least that Shakespeare hoped one day to live in an England that could come to terms with its Catholic past -- and not be haunted by it.
David B. Schajer
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