chapter  2
Shakespeare Reads the Geneva Bible: Barbara A. Mowat
ByBARBARA A. MOWAT
Pages 15

That Shakespeare’s plays allude throughout to the Bible is old news. Nor is it exactly new news that Shakespeare acquired most of his Biblical knowledge through private reading of the Bible (rather than from what he heard in church) or that his favorite Bible was apparently the Geneva-either the 1560 edition or one or more of its later incarnations.1 What is arguably new is that we can discover much about how Shakespeare read this Bible, about his habits of reading in general, and about his dramatic craftsmanship when we closely study the Geneva Bible as it is refl ected in his plays; also arguably new is the light that such study sheds on our awareness of how thoroughly steeped in Biblical story and language Londoners of the late-sixteenth-and early-seventeenth centuries seem to have been-this despite the fact that less than a century had passed since congregations fi rst heard the Bible read aloud in English and that only since 1575 had a reader-friendly English Bible-the Geneva-been published in England and therefore been widely available for private reading.2