Shakespeare in Stained Glass
The Shakespeare Memorials of Southwark Cathedral and "Local" Bardolatry
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.
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