Character and Symbol in Shakespeare's Plays

A Study of Certain Christian and Pre-Christian Elements in Their Structure and Imagery

First published in 1962, Matthews' study examines the symbolic elements which persistently recur in Shakespeare's plays. The book focuses on the traditional material from medieval and sixteenth-century drama which seems to have been present in Shakespeare's mind as he worked, and which, Matthews argues, inspired significant themes which resonate throughout the plays. Divided into three parts, the book addresses in turn the concept of sin, the opposition of justice and mercy and the hope of redemption. Matthews investigates these motifs and their currency in Elizabethan England, and traces their presence in Shakespeare's created worlds with detailed reference to a wide range of the plays. Awareness of them provides fruitful avenues for the interpretation of the plays, and sheds light on Shakespeare's motives and methods.