Shakespeare in Stained Glass

The Shakespeare Memorials of Southwark Cathedral and "Local" Bardolatry


  • Brian Walsh Yale University


Religion, Art


This essay offers a novel history and analysis of a little known episode in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Shakespeare appropriation: Southwark Cathedral's claim to Shakespeare as its most famous parishioner. During a decade when the church was undergoing a major renovation in anticipation of its translation to a cathedral, it memorialized Shakespeare in stained glass windows, an act that anticipated the later installation there of a prominent Shakespeare effigy, and a replacement Shakespeare window when the first was destroyed in WWII. I show how the rhetoric of the Cathedral's main historian at the turn of the century shifted from making claims about the relationship between his parish and a thoroughly Christian Shakespeare to emphasizing more forcefully a "local" Shakespeare of Southwark, whose genius was nursed in South London. I suggest that this was the first iteration of the thinking that seeks to celebrate Shakespeare in a site-specific London location, the fruits of which include the new Globe Theatre in Bankside.

Author Biography

Brian Walsh, Yale University

Brian Walsh is an Assistant Professor in the English Department at Yale. He is the author of Shakespeare, the Queen's Men, and the Elizabethan Performance of History (Cambridge 2009), which won the 2010 Heyman Prize for outstanding scholarly publication at Yale, and articles on Shakespeare, Dekker, Greene, and others. He is currently involved in creating an edition of Henry V specifically designed for use on electronic tablet devices.