Roger Royle broadcaster and writer

02 November 2006


‘I often find spiritual strength in secular books. I’m just reading Will in the World: How Shakespeare became Shakespeare.

The biography explores what we know about Shakespeare’s life, and what we can glean about it from his plays and the time in which he lived. One of the central themes was whether Shakespeare was a Roman Catholic. Was that why he left Stratford? How would he have coped with the double rejection caused by his faith and his profession?

Shakespeare lived on the margins of society, in the wicked underside of London, Southwark. This marginalisation speaks to Christianity today. True spirituality looks at the whole person, not just the religious part; and that is what this study does.

The theatre world was one of competition, and the book reveals the rivalry between Shakespeare and Marlowe. In our spiritual lives, we often feel the destructive forces of jealousy, the stress and anger of preferment. The theatre has always struck me as an honest world in which one has to deliver the goods. Often in our spiritual lives we allow ourselves to drift, but people in the theatre are constantly creating and performing.

One of the strongest themes in the book is the importance of communication. Sharing spiritual truths, whether by word, action, or even just a look, is a gift from God which must be cherished.

When I read spiritual books, I use them as spiritual lozenges, and pop them into my mouth throughout the day. But often books such as Will in the World speak even more deeply than spiritual books to Christian truths.

Will in the World: How Shakespeare became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt, Jonathan Cape, £20 Church Times Bookshop £18; 0-224-06276-X


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