St Mary Overie was a parish church in Tudor and Stuart times and only became a cathedral in the early twentieth century. But because of its proximity to the Bankside theatres of the Shakespearean period (including the Rose, the Globe and the Swan) there is a long history and tradition associating the church with the early modern theatrical industry in London.

Edmond Shakespeare was buried here in the Jacobean period (he had followed his older brother down to London, in pursuit of a theatrical career as an actor), and the cathedral is also home to the burial sites of actor Will Kempe, and the leading playwrights John Fletcher (a Jacobean dramatist) and Philip Massinger (a writer from the later Caroline period), the successors of Shakespeare as resident playwrights for the King’s Men playing company. Likewise, John Harvard (the founder of Harvard University, an Ivy League institution in the USA) was baptized here in 1607 and there has always been a rumour that William Shakespeare was actually present at the church for this occasion.

Furthermore, the leading Elizabethan actor Edward Alleyn (famous for his bombastic delivery of various roles created by Christopher Marlowe) was a benefactor to the church. Lastly, since the twentieth century the cathedral has been keen to acknowledge its cultural role in the history of the Shakespearean London theatres, and there is a prominent Shakespeare memorial located in the south wall.