Shakespeare and Religion

Edited by Lee Oser, Holy Cross College

Essential Reading

Battenhouse, Roy. Shakespearean Tragedy: Its Art and Its Christian Premises. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1969.

———, ed. Shakespeare’s Christian Dimension: An Anthology of Commentary. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.

Bernthal, Craig. The Trial of Man: Christianity and Judgment in the World of Shakespeare. Wilmington: ISI Books, 2003.

Bloom, Harold. Shakespeare and the Invention of the Human. New York: Riverhead Books, 1998.

Brownlow, F. W. Shakespeare, Harsnett, and the Devils of Denham. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1993.

Cox, John D. “Afterword.” Stages of Engagement: Drama and Religion in Post-Reformation in England, edited by James D. Mardock and Kathryn R. McPherson, Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 2014, pp. 263-75.

———. The Devil and the Sacred in English Drama, 1350-1642. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.  

———. Seeming Knowledge: Shakespeare and Skeptical Faith. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2007.

———. “Shakespeare and Religion.” Religions 9 (November 2018): 1-11.

———. “Was Shakespeare a Christian, and If So, What Kind of a Christian Was He?” Christianity and Literature 55 (September 2006): 539-66.

Cummings, Brian. The Literary Culture of the Reformation: Grammar and Grace. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. 

———. Mortal Thoughts: Religion, Secularity & Identity in Shakespeare and Early Modern England. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Cunningham, J. V. “‘Essence’ and the Phoenix and Turtle.” English Literary History 19 (December 1952): 265-76.

Daniell, David. “Shakespeare and the Protestant Mind.” Shakespeare Survey 54 (2001): 1-12.

Duffy, Eamon. The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England c.1400-c.1580. 2nd ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005.

Elton, William R. King Lear and the Gods. San Marino: Huntington Library, 1968. 

Frye, Roland. Shakespeare and the Christian Doctrine. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963.

Greenblatt, Stephen. Hamlet in Purgatory. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001. 

———. Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare. New York: Norton, 2004.

Groves, Beatrice. “England’s Jerusalem in Shakespeare’s Henriad.” The Bible on the Shakespearean Stage: Cultures of Interpretation in Reformation England, edited by Thomas Fulton and Kristen Poole, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018, pp. 87-102.

———. Texts and Traditions: Religion in Shakespeare 1592-1604. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Hadfield, Andrew. “Shakespeare: Biography and Belief.” The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Religion, edited by Hannibal Hamlin, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019, pp. 18-33.

Hassel, Chris R., Jr. Faith and Folly in Shakespeare’s Romantic Comedies. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1980.

———. “Hamlet’s ‘Too, Too Solid Flesh.’” Sixteenth Century Journal 25 (Autumn 1994): 609-22. 

———. Shakespeare’s Religious Language: A Dictionary. New York: Continuum, 2005. 

Holderness, Graham. The Faith of William Shakespeare. Oxford: Lion Books, 2016.

Hunter, Robert G. Shakespeare and the Mystery of God’s Judgments. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2007.

Jensen, Phebe. Religion and Revelry in Shakespeare’s Festive World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Joseph, Miriam, C. S. C. Shakespeare’s Use of the Arts of Language. Philadelphia: Paul Dry Books, 2005.

Kantorowicz, Ernst H. The King’s Two Bodies: A Study in Medieval Political Theology. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957.

Kastan, David Scott. A Will to Believe: Shakespeare and Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Kernodle, G. R. “The Open Stage: Elizabethan or Existentialist?” Shakespeare Survey 12 (1959): 1-7.

Knapp, Jeffrey. Shakespeare’s Tribe: Church, Nation, and Theater in Renaissance England. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.

Knight, G. Wilson. Shakespeare and Religion: Essays of Forty Years. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1967. 

———. The Wheel of Fire: Interpretations of Shakespearian Tragedy. 1930. London, Routledge, 2001.

Kronenfeld, Judy. King Lear and the Naked Truth: Rethinking the Language of Religion and Resistance. Durham: Duke University Press, 1998.

Lake, Peter. “Religious Identities in Shakespeare’s England.” In A Companion to Shakespeare, edited by David Scott Kastan, Oxford: Blackwell, 1999, pp. 57-84.

Lewalski, Barbara K. “Biblical Allusion and Allegory in The Merchant of Venice.” Shakespeare Quarterly 13 (1962): 327-43.

Marx, Steven. Shakespeare and the Bible. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

McCoy, Richard C. Faith in Shakespeare. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. 

Monta, Susannah Brietz. “‘It is requir’d you do awake your faith’: Belief in Shakespeare’s Theater.” Religion and Drama in Early Modern England: The Performance of Religion on the Renaissance Stage, edited by Jane Hwang Degenhardt and Elizabeth Williamson, Farnham: Ashgate, 2011, pp. 115-37.

Morris, Harry. Last Things in Shakespeare. Tallahassee: University of Florida Press, 1985. 

Mowat, Barbara. “Shakespeare Reads the Geneva Bible.” In Shakespeare, the Bible, and the Form of the Book: Contested Scriptures, edited by Travis DeCook and Alan Galey, New York: Routledge, 2012, pp.25-39.

Noble, Richmond. Shakespeare’s Biblical Language. New York: Macmillan, 1935.

Oser, Lee. Christian Humanism in Shakespeare: A Study in Religion and Literature. Catholic University of America Press, 2022.

Poole, Kristen. Radical Religion from Shakespeare to Milton: Figures of Nonconformity in Early Modern England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Righter, Anne. Shakespeare and the Idea of a Play. Baltimore: Penguin, 1967.

Sanders, Wilbur. The Dramatist and the Received Idea: Studies in the Plays of Marlowe and Shakespeare. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968. 

Schreyer, Kurt A. Shakespeare’s Medieval Craft: Remnants of the Mysteries on the London Stage. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2014.

Sellin, Paul R. “The Hidden God.” In The Darker Vision of the Renaissance: Beyond the Fields of Reason, edited by Robert S. Kinsman, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974, pp. 147-96.

Shaheen, Naseeb. Biblical References in Shakespeare’s Plays. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2011.

Shell, Alison. Shakespeare and Religion. London: Methuen, 2010.

Shuger, Debora Kuller. Habits of Thought in the English Renaissance: Religion, Politics, and the Dominant Culture. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997.  

———. “Subversive Fathers and Suffering Subjects: Shakespeare and Christianity.” In Religion, Literature, and Politics in Post-Reformation England, 1540-1688, edited by Donna B. Hamilton and Richard Strier, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp.46-69.

Slights, William W. E. “The Reformed Conscience.” In Stages of Engagement: Drama and Religion in Post-Reformation England, edited by James D. Murdock and Kathryn R. McPherson, Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 2014, 21-39.

Soellner, Rolf. Shakespeare’s Patterns of Self-Knowledge. Columbus:Ohio State University Press, 1972.

Spivak, Bernard. Shakespeare and the Allegory of Evil: The History of a Metaphor in Relation to His Major Villains. New York: Columbia University Press, 1958.

Streete, Adrian. Protestantism and Drama in Early Modern England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Swain, Barbara. Fools and Folly during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. New York: Columbia University Press, 1932.

Taylor, Dennis. “Bearish on the Will: John Shakespeare in the Rafters.” Shakespeare Newsletter 54 (Spring 2004): 11,16, 24, 28.

Tillyard, E. M. W. Shakespeare’s History Plays. New York: Collier Books, 1962.

Waddington, Raymond B. “Lutheran Hamlet.” English Language Notes 27 (1989): 27-42.

Walsh, Brian. Unsettled Toleration: Religious Differences on the Shakespearean Stage. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

Wells, Robin Headlam. Shakespeare’s Humanism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. 

Welsford, Enid. The Fool: His Social and Literary History. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1961.

Wittreich, Joseph. “Image of that Horror”: History, Prophecy, and Apocalypse in King Lear. San Marino: Huntington Library, 1984.

Additional Reading  

Beauregard, David. Catholic Theology in Shakespeare’s Plays. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2008.

Coonradt, Nicole M. “Shakespeare’s Grand Deception: The Merchant of Venice–Anti-Semitism as ‘Uncanny Causality’ and the Catholic-Protestant Problem.” Religion and the Arts 11 (2007): 74-97. 

Dawson, Anthony B. and Paul Yachnin. The Culture of Playgoing in Shakespeare’s England: A Collaborative Debate. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Dutton, Richard, Alison Findlay, and Richard Wilson, ed. Theatre and Religion: Lancastrian Shakespeare. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004.

Evett, David. “Types of King David in Shakespeare’s Lancastrian Tetralogy.” Shakespeare Studies 14 (1981): 139-61.

Ferry, Anne. The “Inward” Language: Sonnets of Wyatt, Sidney, Shakespeare, Donne. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.

Fortin, René E. “Hermeneutical Circularity and Christian Interpretations of King Lear.” Shakespeare Studies 12 (1979): 113-25.

———. “Launcelot and the Uses of Allegory in The Merchant of Venice.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 14 (Spring 1974): 259-70.

Fripp, Edgar I.  Shakespeare: Man and Artist. 2 vols. London: Oxford University Press, 1938.

Fulton, Thomas, and Kristen Poole, ed. The Bible on the Shakespearean Stage: Cultures of Interpretation in Reformation England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Gray, Patrick and John D. Cox, ed. Shakespeare and Renaissance Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Greenfield, Thelma N. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Praise of Folly.” Comparative Literature 20 (1968): 236-44.

Hamlin, Hannibal. The Bible in Shakespeare. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

———, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019.

Hillier, Russell M. “Hamlet the Rough-Hewer: Moral Agency and the Consolations of Reformation Thought.” Shakespeare and Renaissance Ethics, edited by Patrick Gray and John D. Cox, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014, 159-85.

Holland, Peter, ed. Shakespeare Survey 54 (2001). “Shakespeare and Religions.”

Hunt, Maurice. “Christian Numerology in Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of King Richard the Second.” Christianity and Literature 60 (Winter 2011): 227-45.

Jackson, Ken, and Arthur F. Marotti. “Introduction.” In Shakespeare and Religion: Early Modern and Postmodern Perspectives, edited by Ken Jackson and Arthur F. Marotti, 1-21. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2011. 

Jones, Emrys. “Othello, Lepanto, and the Cyprus Wars.” Shakespeare Survey 21 (1968): 47–52.

Leo, Russ. Tragedy as Philosophy in the Reformation World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019.

Lynch, Stephen J. “Sin, Suffering, and Redemption in Leir and Lear.” Shakespeare Studies 18 (1986): 161-74.

Mayer, Jean-Christophe. “Providence and Divine Right.” In The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Religion, edited by Hannibal Hamlin, 151-67. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019.

———. Shakespeare’s Hybrid Faith: History, Religion and the Stage. Palgrave: New York, 2006.

McAlindon, Tom. Shakespeare’s Tudor History: A Study of Henry IV Parts 1 and 2. London: Routledge, 2018.

Millman, Noah. “Whence Comes Legitimacy?” The American Conservative (March 16, 2017):

Milward, Peter, S. J. Biblical Influences in Shakespeare’s Great Tragedies. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.

———. “Religion in Arden.” Shakespeare Survey 54 (2001): 115-21.

———. Shakespeare’s Religious Background. Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1973.

———. Shakespearian Echoes: The Comedies. Tokyo: The Renaissance Institute, 2010.

———. Shakespearian Echoes: The Tragedies. Tokyo: The Renaissance Institute, 2010.

Morris, Ivor. Shakespeare’s God. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1972.

Mutschmann, H. and K. Wentersdorf. Shakespeare and Catholicism. New York: Sheed and Ward, 1952.

Pauls, Peter. “The True Chronicle History of King Leir and Shakespeare’s King Lear: A Reconsideration.” Upstart Crow 5 (1984): 93-107.

Pearce, Joseph. The Quest for Shakespeare: The Bard of Avon and the Church of Rome. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008.

Semper, I. J. Hamlet without Tears. Dubuque, Iowa: Loras College Press, 1946. 

Taylor, Dennis and David Beauregard, ed. Shakespeare and the Culture of Christianity in Early Modern England. New York: Fordham University Press, 2003.

Weimann, Robert and Douglas Bruster. Shakespeare and the Power of Performance: Stage and Page in the Elizabethan Theatre. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Woods, Gillian. Shakespeare’s Unreformed Fictions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.