So Shakespeare's formative years were spent at a time poised between two worlds -those of Catholicism and Protestantism, of the old and the new, the medieval andthe modern. This was the time reflected in some of the richly informativedocuments relating to his town and region that survive.
Other reports show that during the time that William's father served as mayor of Stratford, officers delayed as long as possible before removing Catholic murals andvestments from the local chapel; some wall paintings were never destroyed.Perhaps even more significant, of the six schoolmasters employed by thecorporation at the grammar school during Shakespeare's youth, four were Catholicsympathisers. Of these, Simon Hunt, who probably taught the future playwright, isknown to have later become a Jesuit.In his life in the family, in the town, at school and at church he grew up betweentwo worlds. This fascinating local picture mirrors the national situation, and is perhaps a key toShakespeare's outlook on the world. In his life in the family, in the town, at schooland at church he grew up between two worlds.In the privacy of home the old faith may have been foremost. His grandfather,Robert Arden, left a will (of 1556) that demonstrates a strongly Catholic belief. Hisfather, John Shakespeare, appears on a list of Catholic recusants in 1592; and adocument discovered quite recently (in 1964), in the Maidstone church courtrecords, shows that even his daughter Susanna was summonsed, as late as 1606,for refusing to take Easter Communion.
The Shakespeare family story seems typical of that of many English people in the16th century. They held on to their affection for old England, while the state sweptaway a vast and resonant world of custom and belief - from fairies to prayers for thedead. By the end of Elizabeth's reign most of the country had conformed, at leastoutwardly, to the new faith, but by then Shakespeare was nearly 40.Seen in this light, it seems that Shakespeare may have made concealment not onlypart of his art, but part perhaps of a deliberate pattern in his life too. It is intriguing,for example, that during his 25 years of lodging in London, with as many as eight