JANUARY 2, 2015 BY



Shakespeare’s religious beliefs are the subject of an ongoing scholarly debate. In 1616, the year Shakespeare died, the Jesuit press at the College of St. Omer—then in the Spanish Flanders but now in France—published an edition of poems by the Jesuit martyr Robert Southwell in which the preface, ‘The Author to his loving Cousin,’ was altered to read, ‘To my worthy good cousin Maister W.S.’ from ‘Your loving cousin, R.S.’ Scholars are now wondering whether the recipient of the poems was William Shakespeare.

In a new Heythrop Journal article, Andrea Campana notes that recent studies showing the decisive influence of Southwell’s poems and prose on Shakespeare’s language and the distinctive Jesuit message of Catholic perseverance in Shakespeare’s work, as well as a biographical connection between Shakespeare and the network of secretly Catholic families sheltering Jesuits in hiding, make it likely that the early Jesuit missionaries played a role in the making of the Shakespearean canon.