Jesuit Martyr Who Influenced Shakespeare

St. Robert Southwell, Jesuit priest and martyr, was hanged, drawn and quartered on February 21, 1595. To commemorate the anniversary and to celebrate the legacy of this great Catholic saint and poet, Joseph Pearce was interviewed by Jan Franczak for the Polish journal, This is the interview’s first publication in English.

Catholic World Report: Franczak: Robert Southwell (1561-1595) was a poet, a Jesuit missionary in his own country, a martyr, a saint and Shakespeare’s distant cousin (the last fact seems not to be mentioned at all or rarely mentioned if I’m not mistaken). Which of these roles was the most important and why?

Pearce: Strictly speaking, the fact that he was a martyr is the most important because it opened the gates of heaven, leading to Southwell’s canonization as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. The fact that he was a poet, and a very fine poet, is important because Southwell exerted a considerable literary influence upon Shakespeare. This is more important than the fact that he was Shakespeare’s distant cousin. Read here in full.