Sink into Dishonesty. parents were devoted Catholics. In this secretive environment, Shakespeare was

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1 Jessica Jiang English 11/12 Block A Sink into Dishonesty Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. It was an age when Catholics were prosecuted for their belief and Shakespeare s parents were devoted Catholics. In this secretive environment, Shakespeare was educated by Catholic teachers and heavily influenced by his father s faith. Yet he became the favourite playwright of the protestant queen. Shakespeare became the favourite because he chose to be dishonest with his past in order to become more successful. Just like in his play Hamlet, Shakespeare was faced with choices and he chose dishonesty. Dishonesty soon became a way of living and eventually was integrated as a part of Shakespeare. In Hamlet, Shakespeare created the character Claudius to navigate through the fragile political structure of England while expressing his inner turmoil caused by his own dishonesty. To be successful in the era of patronage, Shakespeare learned to flatter the monarch. In the play Hamlet, Shakespeare decided to flatter the late monarch Henry VIII by comparing him with Claudius, a character in the play. Claudius, like Henry VIII, was the second son of the late king. They both spent their early lives in the shadows of their brothers and were never destined to become the monarchs. By a twist of fate, they both became kings and married their brother s widows. The striking similarity between the two men would have been very obvious to the audience at the time, especially Queen Elizabeth.

2 Considering the background, Shakespeare knew that using King Henry VIII in his play was like walking across thin ice. Offending the late king would have cost his life. In order to make a successful comparison, Shakespeare had to suppress his own values as a Catholic to praise the protestant King. Even though King Henry VIII is now known as the brutal king who had six wives, he was highly respected by his daughter, Queen Elizabeth. Queen Elizabeth saw her father as the paradigm of a powerful ruler and was aspired to become the same. To flatter Queen Elizabeth, Shakespeare made Claudius live an alternative ending to King Henry VIII s life. Claudius was killed at the end of the play and lost all his land to the neighbouring country. He was as Horatio said, justly served (V, II, 328) for his dishonesty. Even though King Henry VIII had very similar experiences as Claudius, he lived to become the head of both government and religion in England. The comparison was great flattery for King Henry VIII s cleverness and his ability as a politician. The death of Claudius inversely reflected that Henry VIII was a natural born leader. Queen Elizabeth would have given her firm approval of this praise to her much- admired father. However for Shakespeare, to flatter the King would mean to betray his own Catholic upbringing. King Henry VIII was the monarch who abolished Catholicism in England and established Anglicanism. King Henry VIII was the culprit behind thousands of Catholic deaths. Consequently, Shakespeare s Catholic father would have secretly despised King Henry VIII and probably influenced Shakespeare in the same way. Admiration for the despised king brought guilt to Shakespeare s conscious because he betrayed his family s religious belief.

3 Yet dishonesty was lucrative and advantageous for Shakespeare. Dishonest flattering allowed Shakespeare to become the favourite playwright of Queen Elizabeth, the most influential figure to theatre at the time. Queen Elizabeth loved theater and passed the legislation that ended the wandering life of actor. By flattering the royal family, Shakespeare gained the support of Queen Elizabeth. Under Queen Elizabeth, the Globe Theater was built. With the Queen s approval, Shakespeare soon became a celebrity and achieved admirable social status. Eventually he saved enough money to buy the second biggest house in Stratford- Upon- Avon, his hometown. With all that he had accumulated, to be honest would mean the sudden loss of all his fortunes and fame. The dilemma that Shakespeare faced was a battle of ambition against guilt. Considering his upbringing, Shakespeare would have felt guilt in flattering the Protestant royal family and the same theme of guilt is present in Hamlet. Dishonesty brought Shakespeare fame and wealth but at the same time made him betray his own values. To be honest would release Shakespeare from his own guilt, but it would also mean giving up his career. This dilemma is remarkably similar to the dilemma that Claudius faced. Dishonesty brought crown and queen for Claudius. For Claudius, being honest meant to give up the things that he has always desired. Claudius wanted to confess his sins to Heaven because he is scared of his own guilt, but his ambition was persuading him to hold onto his power. Claudius and Shakespeare both wanted to be pardoned and retain th' offense (III, III, 57). They wanted to be free from guilt and still retain what they achieved, which they both knew was impossible.

4 Shakespeare s dishonesty was rewarded so immensely that it was nearly impossible for him to be truthful. Yet the guilt that accompanied his dishonesty did not allow him to truly enjoy his accomplishments. Shakespeare wanted to be free of his guilt and Claudius might have been the character that he created to gain his much desired freedom.

5 Bibliography Bevington, David M. Shakespeare and Biography. Oxford: Oxford UP, Print. "The Life of William Shakespeare." The Life of William Shakespeare. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar "The Religion of TheShakespeare Family." The Religion of the Shakespeare Family. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar Scarisbrick, J. J. Henry VIII,. Berkeley: University of California, Print. Oliver, Marilyn T. The Importance of Henry VIII. N.p.: Lucent, n.d. Print. Fraser, Antonia. The Wives of Henry VIII. New York: Knopf, Print.

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