The influence of mystery and morality plays on the work of William Shakespeare

David Fincham

This article considers the origin and nature of medieval mystery and morality plays, and the extent to which the characters and religious themes of these plays influenced the work of William Shakespeare. David Fincham is a lecturer in Catholic School Leadership at St Mary’s University, Twickenham.

Scholars have studied a variety of aspects of William Shakespeare’s life and work in detail across the centuries, exploring not only his language and his poetic style, but also questions about the disputed authorship of his plays. The subject of whether or not Shakespeare was a closet Catholic (his father, having been born before the Reformation, would have been Catholic), has also been discussed. It was even reported in the Daily Telegraph (18 November 2011) that, according to L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s daily newspaper, Shakespeare’s plays ‘teem with open references to the Catholic religion.’

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