Catholicism, Controversy and the English Literary by Alison Shell

By Alison Shell

The Catholic contribution to English literary tradition has been extensively missed or misunderstood. This booklet units out to rehabilitate a variety of Catholic innovative writing, whereas exposing the position of anti-Catholicism as an inventive stimulus to mainstream writers in Tudor and Stuart England. It discusses canonical figures comparable to Sidney, Spenser, Webster and Middleton along many lesser-known writers. Alison Shell explores the Catholic rhetoric of loyalism and apostasy, and the stimulus given to the Catholic literary mind's eye via the persecution and exile such a lot of of those writers suffered.

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Webster and Middleton, Tourneur and Ford. It was an obscure specialisation, but the candlelit and treacherous universe in which they moved ± of sin unpunished, of innocence destroyed ± was one I found appealing. Even the titles of their plays were strangely seductive, trapdoors to something beautiful and wicked that trickled beneath the surface of mortality: The Malcontent, The White Devil, The Broken Heart . . 1 Like many previous literary critics, he enshrines these thoughts in a dissertation on The Revenger's Tragedy.

The description of the family group as a whole and of Hypocrisie in particular is a paradigm of anti-Catholic iconographical discourse, and demonstrates how such a discourse can be constructed out of pre-existing topoi. 43 Within this context, however ± and context is all-important in establishing the presence of anti-Catholicism ± it echoes the wood worshipped by Idolatros with its alluring glitter and collapsible rottenness. 44 One image of deceit is tied to another till all are given focus in the description of Hypocrisie himself, enclosed in the hieratic gold and jewelled armour of an idol, with an idol's shield of horrors;45 this in turn has the dual signi®cance of tyranny, and of a splendid skin concealing a loathsome inside.

51 The poem begins by describing changes in the earth which herald darkness and apocalypse, and it is soon clear that Rome is the cause. See, see, that mount that was the worldes admire, The stately Pyramis of glorious price; Whose seav'n hill'd head did over all aspire, Is now transform'd to Hydra-headed vice: (p. 59, ll. 57±61) Her hellish braine pan of each enterprice . . Tourneur proceeds to compare this pyramid to the Tower of Babel ± that is, of Babylon ± and contrast its shifting structure with the ®rm foundations of the godly.

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