© 2018

Shakespeare, Catholicism, and the Middle Ages

Maimed Rights


Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

About this book


Whereas traditional scholarship assumed that William Shakespeare used the medieval past as a negative foil to legitimate the present, Shakespeare, Catholicism, and the Middle Ages offers a revisionist perspective, arguing that the playwright valorizes the Middle Ages in order to critique the oppressive nature of the Tudor-Stuart state. In examining Shakespeare’s Richard II, The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, and The Winter’s Tale, the text explores how Shakespeare repossessed the medieval past to articulate political and religious dissent. By comparing these and other plays by Shakespeare’s contemporaries with their medieval analogues, Alfred Thomas argues that Shakespeare was an ecumenical writer concerned with promoting tolerance in a highly intolerant and partisan age.



medieval literary models medieval literary techniques medieval motifs medieval art Early modern literature renaissance literature Shakespeare and the middle ages Catholicism in Tudor England religious freedom Renaissance England Shakespeare and Catholicism Christopher Marlowe Jews in Renaissance England

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.University of Illinois at ChicagoChicago, ILUSA

About the authors

Alfred Thomas is Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago, USA, and is the author of ten books, including a Blessed Shore: England and Bohemia from Chaucer to Shakespeare (2007); Shakespeare, Dissent, and the Cold War (Palgrave Macmillan 2014); and Reading Women in Late Medieval Europe: Anne of Bohemia and Chaucer’s Female Audience (Palgrave Macmillan 2015).


Bibliographic information


“This … is a timely book. It is also highly readable and easy to recommend: it is never less than stimulating, its parallels between medieval and later texts often illuminating and thought provoking.” (Ivana Djordjević, Speculum, Vol. 94 (4), October, 2019)