Letters - Lear's long Catholic journey

Contrary to Michael Portillo's suggestion (The Back Half, 10 May), it is hardly surprising that a "Catholic idea" should have crept into Hamlet. Catholic ideas abound in Shakespeare's plays. What,

after all, is King Lear, but one long journey

through suffering to self-knowledge and a kind of redemption, even if at the end Shakespeare, ever the subversive, denies the audience a cosily optimistic conclusion? Historical evidence suggests that Shakespeare came from a Catholic-sympathising family. His father fell foul of the new Protestant laws on at least one documented occasion. Later, Shakespeare mixed with intellectuals in London who had grave reservations about the Protestant "police state" and the new theological orthodoxy.

Chris Mayers