Project Director

McCarthy, Andrew D.

Department Examiner

Rehyansky, Katherine; O'Dea, Gregory


Dept. of English


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)


Widely hailed as the single greatest writer and poet of the English language, William Shakespeare is not only revered for the sheer quantity and wide-ranging genres of his writing, but also the exceptional written quality, well-executed thematic diversity, and ability to explore the timelessness of the human experience. With the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible occurring in 2011 and the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death following in 2016, scholarship on Shakespeare’s use of biblical material underwent a significant resurgence. The focus of much of this scholarship has been on simply identifying the numerous references rather than on attempting to determine why Shakespeare chose to include these specific references and, more importantly, what larger purpose they serve within the plays. As the plays written between 1600 and 1606 are widely recognized by critics as Shakespeare’s most biblical, they are ideal for studying his motivations and the different effects his biblical borrowings have on both his original and modern audiences. By examining Othello (1602) and Measure for Measure (1603), it becomes clear that Shakespeare intentionally employed biblical elements in his plays to add deeper levels of meaning and implications for audience members, thus making a thorough knowledge of biblical material essential to fully enjoying the richness of Shakespeare’s dramatic works. As modern audiences have grown increasingly biblically illiterate, the moral and emotional significances of the biblical elements Shakespeare employs are often overlooked or misinterpreted, causing contemporary audiences to be unable to fully grasp the additional levels of meaning these passages add to his plays. Only when these plays are viewed with careful attention being paid to the biblical elements can the full weight of Shakespeare’s intended message be felt.


I would like to thank my Thesis Director, Dr. Andrew McCarthy, for his guidance, encouragement, and support throughout this project. I would also like to thank Dr. Katherine Rehyansky and Dr. Greg O'Dea for their thoughtful comments and revisions.


B. A.; An honors thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Bachelor of Arts.




Bible -- Influence; Bible -- In literature


Shakespeare, William, -- 1564-1616 -- Criticism and interpretation


Shakespeare; Bible; Measure for Measure; Othello; Christ-figure; Devil-figure


English Language and Literature

Document Type



46 leaves




Under copyright.