Clare Asquith

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Clare Asquith, the Countess of Oxford and Asquith (born 2 June 1951) is a British independent scholar and author of Shadowplay: the Hidden Beliefs and Coded Politics of William Shakespeare,[1] which has posited that Shakespeare was a covert Catholic whose works contain coded language which was used by the Catholic underground, particularly the Jesuits, in Reformation-era England, but also appealed to the monarchy in a plea for toleration. Her book was the first to note the existence of the code as a subtext in Shakespeare.[2]

Her work was hailed by some, including the Catholic writer Piers Paul Read as "dramatic, important" and "painstaking scholarship".[2] It was, however, reviewed unfavourably by Dr David Womersley, Professor of English Literature at Oxford University, who deemed it "a ridiculous book".[3]

She has lectured on Shakespeare in both the UK and North America. Her ideas about sixteenth-century code were first raised while observing coded messages in Soviet dissident plays while her husband served as a diplomat in Moscow during the Cold War,[4] and were first published in The Shakespeare Newsletter and The Times Literary Supplement.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Lady Oxford was born Mary Clare Pollen, the eldest of the five children of Francis Anthony Baring Pollen (2 December 1926 — 1987) and Marie Therese Sheridan (later Viscountess Sidmouth, wife of the 7th peer).[5] She lives in Somerset with her husband, former diplomat Raymond Asquith, 3rd Earl of Oxford and Asquith (whom she married in 1978) and their five children.


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