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E. Beatrice Batson Shakespeare Society

photo of shakespeare rendering for shakespeare societyThe E. Beatrice Batson Shakespeare Society explores the Christian dimensions of the works of William Shakespeare. For centuries, scholars have examined the biblical influences on his works and studied Christian ideas in his writings. They have explored the Christian implications of his plays and poems, as well as other historical and spiritual topics. The Shakespeare Society connects all of these themes in relation to Shakespeare’s works in order to serve students, professors, and Shakespeare enthusiasts.


photo of past professor beatrice batson with Shakespeare bustBrought into the Wheaton faculty by English Department Chair Dr. Clyde S. Kilby in 1957, Professor Batson taught at Wheaton for 33 years. She served as Chair of the English Department from 1973 to 1987, and returned to chair the department again for several years to provide leadership during a departmental transition. Dr. Batson greatly expanded the reach of the department, bringing to campus notable authors such as Madeline L’Engle, Barbara Reynolds, Frederick Buechner, Thomas Howard, James Frederick Nims, Hazel and Walford Davies, Harry Blamires, and others. 

When Dr. E. Beatrice Batson retired, friends gave her a Fourth Folio copy of Shakespeare’s dramas, Henry IV, Part I and II, as a tribute to her life, spirit, and contribution to Wheaton College. It would become the first book in the E. Beatrice Batson Shakespeare Collection at Buswell Library. Over the next two decades, Dr. Batson devoted much time to growing the collection. In addition, Dr. Batson organized the summer Shakespeare Institutes, conferences for Shakespearean educators and scholars.

The Shakespeare Society is administered by Buswell Library while The Shakespeare Council, a small group of faculty, oversees programming and the society’s development. The Shakespeare Advisory Group, consisting of faculty across Wheaton College, meets twice a year to provide input in the campus conversation about Shakespeare and Christianity.

The Shakespeare Society continues to develop the E. Beatrice Batson Shakespeare Collection in Special Collections, Buswell Library. The collection consists of the best critical works, as well as unique books that enliven the collection and inspire visitors. It is located on the lower level of Buswell Library.

The Shakespeare Society also sponsors a variety of activities, including panels, exhibits, lectures, and performances and readings. Details about the undergraduate writing contest are below.

E. Beatrice Batson Essay Contest

Description: This essay contest recognizes outstanding research papers about Shakespeare and Christianity written by Wheaton College undergraduates.

Awards: Award winners will be announced at the E. Beatrice Batson Shakespeare Society Annual Lecture on March 19, 2020 at 7:00 p.m. Award winners receive substantial prizes: $500 for first place and prize money for second place or honorable mentions varies. Award winners are also published in Wheaton Writing: A Journal of Academic Essays, alongside winners of the Jameson Critical Essay Contest and the Jameson First-Year Writing Contest. Members of the Shakespeare Advisory Board serve as judges, and a member of the Shakespeare Council serves as director of this contest.

Essay Qualifications:

  • The essay must richly address at least one of Shakespeare’s works (e.g, a poem or play).
  • The essay should be written from a distinctly Christian perspective (e.g., engaging the Bible, Christian history, theology, or a Biblical worldview).
  • The essay should be persuasive and should cite a minimum of six secondary sources.
  • The essay must be original, written by the student submitting the essay.
  • • The essay must have been written as a part of a course at Wheaton College (or during study abroad). The course must have been completed within the last two years.
  • Only one essay per student per year is to be submitted.
  • An essay cannot win both a Jameson Critical Essay Contest prize and an E. Beatrice Batson Shakespeare Essay Contest prize.

Essay Submission:

  • The essay should not include the author’s name. Instead, it should include the student’s ID number.
  • Two hard copies of the essay should be submitted to the English department on the third floor of Blanchard Hall.
  • When submitting the essay, the author should complete a Contest Entry Form (available in the English department).

Essay Deadline: February 14, 2020, at 5:00 p.m.

This contest is sponsored by the Batson Shakespeare Society and the Writing Center.