Use of rosary beads in Shakespeare

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It is unlikely that Shakespeare would have used a rosary, since he was ostensibly a Church of England worshiper, and Catholicism was technically outlawed in Britain.


Nevertheless, the process of praying with rosaries and reciting prayers such as the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary is referred to on many occasions in Shakespeare’s works.



In Shakespeare’s early play The Comedy of Errors, there are two sets of twins, neither of which knows of the other’s existence. They all end up on one island, which causes much confusion, chaos and amusement. The serving man Dromio of Syracuse is mistaken, unbeknown to him, for his twin Dromio of Ephesus and begins to think the world is inhabited by evil spirits. He calls for his ‘beads’, which signifies rosary:

O, for my beads! I cross me for a sinner.
This is the fairy land: O spite of spites!
We talk with goblins, owls and sprites:
If we obey them not, this will ensue,
They’ll suck our breath, or pinch us black and blue.
(Comedy of Errors, Act 2, Scene 2)


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