E. Beatrice Batson Essay Contest


This essay contest recognizes outstanding research papers about Shakespeare and Christianity written by Wheaton College undergraduates. This contest is sponsored by the E. Beatrice Batson Shakespeare Society and takes place bi-annually in the spring semester. The next essay contest will take place in Spring 2026.


Award winners receive substantial prizes: $500 for first place; prize money for second place or honorable mentions varies. Award-winning essays are also published in Wheaton Writing: A Journal of Academic Essays alongside award-winning essays from the Jameson Critical Essay Contest and the Jameson First-Year Writing 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 multiple scholarly secondary sources.
  • The essay must be original, written by the student submitting the essay.
  • Only one essay per student per year may 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.
  • Submit the essay using this Google Form: https://forms.gle/tVoxZ5tYPrkNVJa76

Essay Deadline

Essay submissions are due by 11:59 PM on Monday, May 4, 2026. Questions? Email Shakespeare.society@wheaton.edu

Kathryn Ryken2022: Kathryn Ryken

Ideal Kingship in Shakespeare's Henry V

One of Shakespeare’s most beloved characters, King Henry V has long been revered as “the mirror of all Christian kings.” However, many contemporary scholars reject this interpretation, drawing attention to Henry’s nationalism, Machiavellian ideals, and use of military force, for example. Such arguments ultimately undermine Henry’s complexity. Alluding to the epic tradition, Shakespeare situates Henry within a larger external narrative. From loveable youth to capable leader, it is Henry’s humanity that establishes him as the ideal king.

2021: Evan Zhuo

The Bible in King Lear

King Lear is unique to the big four Shakespearean tragedies in its lack of supernatural activity. This has prompted much critical debate and confusion over the nature of both the divine in the play and the play's relationship to the Bible and Christianity. Critics have commonly employed a top-down methodology, starting first with a theme that Lear seems to be concerned with and then finding passages to support the theme. In this essay, I will employ a bottom-up method, starting with a comprehensive analysis of all the biblical references in the play. I argue that Shakespeare uses the Bible in King Lear to contrast characters, set up a typological Christ-figure, and investigate eschatological themes—creating and then ultimately subverting expectations for a redemptive ending.

Maggie Rothrock2020: Maggie Rothrock

The Not-So-Holy Shrine of Catholicism in Romeo and Juliet

“The Not-So-Holy Shrine of Catholicism in Romeo and Juliet” questions a view of Shakespeare’s relationship to the Reformation in the early tragedy, which claims that his main Reformed concern in the play is to endorse individualistic notions of desire and repentance. Instead, the play is shown to display Reformational sensibilities in its exposure of blasphemous imagery and societal corruption as the vehicle for the lovers’ downfall. This reading takes a critical eye to a culturally idealized romance, allowing modern readers to consider more carefully how passion and temptation were viewed in a post-Reformational context.

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