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 annual programming and the society’s development. The Council is composed of up to eight Wheaton College faculty members from a variety of disciplines that intersect with Shakespeare and Christianity, including Reformation and Renaissance history, English literature, historical theology, music, and theater, among others. 

250x207 picture of actual folioThe 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.

The Batson Shakespeare Society sponsors a variety of activities on campus, including panels, exhibits, lectures, performances, and readings. Details about upcoming events are below. Please contact the Shakespeare Society at shakespeare.society@wheaton.edu for more information about any of our events or activities. 

Upcoming Schedule of Activities

2023-2024 Academic Year

  • Sonnets and Cider: Thursday, October 5, 7 PM: Gather around the fire as we read, perform, and listen to favorite Shakespearean sonnets. Sonnets, cider, and s'mores provided.
  • E. Beatrice Batson Lecture Series: Thursday: October 19, 7 PM, in Bakke Auditorium, Wade Center. Dr. Timothy Larsen, Carolyn and Fred McManis Professor of Christian Thought and Professor of History, will give the fall lecture, entitled, “Shakespeare Goes to School: Charlotte M. Yonge’s edition of Henry IV, Part I (1883).” The lecture will be accompanied by a performance by Professor Mark Lewis. 
  • Shakespeare Movie Night: February 2024. More details to follow.
  • E. Beatrice Batson Lecture Series: Thursday: March 21, 7 PM, in Bakke Auditorium, Wade Center. Dr. David Urban, Professor of English, Calvin University, will deliver the annual spring lecture.
  • Batson Essay Contest. This contest recognizes outstanding research papers about Shakespeare and Christianity written by Wheaton College undergraduate students. Deadline submission is April 29, 2024 at midnight. 
350x350 prof batson posing with shakespeare bust
E. Beatrice Batson Essay Contest

This essay contest recognizes outstanding research papers about Shakespeare and Christianity written by Wheaton College undergraduates. Win prizes! The next contest will take place during the Spring 2024 semester.