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The Elizabethan Age underwent a continuing crisis of religion that was marked by a deepening polarization of thought between the supporters of the recently established Protestant Church and the larger number of adherents to the Roman Catholic faith. Of these latter, Edmund Campion may be taken as the archetype. Well known as an Englishman who fled to the Continent for conscience\'s sake, he returned to England as a Jesuit priest, was executed by the English government in 1581 and was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in 1970.
It has been observed that the author of the Shakespeare plays displays a considerable sympathy and familiarity with the practices and beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church.i The intent here is to show a link between this English Catholic leader and the writer of the drama, Twelfth Night, as revealed by allusions to Edmund Campion in Act IV, scene ii of that play.
A Brief Outline of Campion\'s Life
Though Edmund Campion (1540-1581) was a scholar at Oxford University under the patronage of Queen Elizabeth I\'s court favorite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, Campion\'s studies of theology, church history, and the church fathers led him away from the positions taken by the Church of England. From Campion\'s point of view, to satisfy the new orthodoxy of the Church of England, a reconstructionist interpretation of church history was being set forth, one chat he found difficult to reconcile with what he actually found in the writings of those fathers [2]. Had the veil been swept away? Were St. Augustine and St. John Chrysostom really Anglicans rather than Roman Catholics? Or were the church authorities trimming their sails to the exigencies of temporal policy? Questions such as these dogged Campion, and eventually his position at Oxford became untenable since he could not make the appropriate gestures of adherence to the established church [3]. Instead, Campion retreated from Oxford to Dublin in 1569, where he drew less attention and enjoyed the protection of Sir Henry Sidney, Lord Deputy for Ireland, and the patronage of Sir James Stanihurst, Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, who planned to have Campion participate in the founding of what was to become Trinity College in Dublin [4].
During this period a number of significant events took place. In 1568, the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, was driven from her realm into England, where she came under the protection and custody of the English Crown. Immediately after came the rebellion of the northern Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland in the winter of 1569, who sought to place Mary on the English throne. Then, in the spring of 1570, Pope Pius V issued a hull excommunicating Queen Elizabeth and releasing her subjects from their obligation of obedience to her. After the death of Pius V, an inquiry to Rome regarding this bull elicited the response that "as long as the Queen [Elizabeth] remained de facto ruler, it was lawful for Catholics to obey her in civil matters and cooperate in all just things... that it was unlawful for any private person, not wearing uniform and authorized to do so as an act of war, to slay any tyrant whatsoever, unless the tyrant, for example, had invaded his country in arms" (Waugh, p. 94-95)
In short, English Catholics were rejoined to follow the path of Sir Thomas More, being the Crown\'s loyal servant in all matters save religion. However, as Waugh concedes, "It was possible to deduce from this decision that the [English] Catholics were a body of potential rebels,who only waited for foreign invasion to declare themselves. This was the sense in which [William] Cecil [Lord Treasurer and the Queen\'s most trusted councillor] read it, for he was reluctant to admit the possibility of anyone being both a patriotic Englishman and an opponent of his regime (Waugh p. 95). The English government then enacted laws more restrictive to English Catholics. In 1570, the year of the Papal Bull, it was made an act of high treason, punishable by death, to bring into the country "any bull, writing, or instrument obtained from the Bishop of Rome" or "to absolve or reconcile" any of the Queen\'s subjects to the Bishop of Rome (Waugh p. 117). In this atmosphere