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, 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. Her work was hailed by some, including the Catholic writer Piers Paul Read, as "dramatic, important" and "painstaking scholarship". It was, however, reviewed unfavourably by Dr David Womersley, Professor of English Literature at Oxford University, who deemed it "a ridiculous book". 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, and were first published in The Shakespeare Newsletter and The Times Literary Supplement.