Publication Date

Summer 7-24-2020


College of Arts and Sciences




Shakespeare, Marlowe, Elizabethan England, Protestant Reformation, Alchemy, Elizabethan Drama, Catholic England


Catholic Studies | Christian Denominations and Sects | Dramatic Literature, Criticism and Theory | European History | History of Christianity | History of Religion | Literature in English, British Isles | Political History | Renaissance Studies


Though established English history portrays Elizabeth I (1533-1603) as uniting England under the new Protestant religion, recent historical evidence reveals that extensive counter-currents still existed. This thesis examines how the politico-religious beliefs of Elizabethan and Jacobean playwrights manifest themselves in their drama, particularly through imagery and allusions. It draws especially from Frances Yates to assert that imagery of white magic, Christian Cabala, and alchemy in these dramatists’ works refers to the pure imperial reform movement of Elizabeth’s reign, and also from Clare Asquith to illuminate a reading of Shakespeare as a playwright who encoded in his plays a Catholic message and a history of the underground movement in England that presents an alternative history to the established one.