Shakespeare's Imitations

Shakespeare's Imitations

Shakespeare's Imitations

Shakespeare's Imitations

Synopsis

"Shakespeare's Imitations examines, in four plays by Shakespeare, scenes and other elements (characters, speeches, incidental actions) that strongly resemble other materials within these same plays and to some extent outside them. The book represents these scenes as models and their imitations, images and their reflections, originals and copies, the things that are imitated and the things that imitate them, and it does so within the context of classical and Renaissance theories of imitation. It argues that an imitation does not merely repeat its model, it completes and deciphers it: the model, that is, can begin to be understood fully only after its imitation is apprehended as an interpretation of it. But the connection is entirely reciprocal, for the original also imitates and interprets its copy." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

The subject of this study is several constitutive elements (or parts, or features) of four plays by Shakespeare in connection or relation to each other. Many terms express in approximate ways these connections. Two—although not, of course, just any two—characters, speeches, incidents, motifs, and above all, for my purposes, scenes may be said to be repetitions of each other, or near-repetitions, repetitions with a difference. They can be copies, replicas, duplicates—or distortions, caricatures, parodies. They may resemble each other, be similar, conceivably be identical. Or they may be said to echo one another, or the first may resonate within the second, or the second may reflect, or offer a variation upon, the first. In a myriad of ways, the second may derive from, and owe its existence, sense, and coherence to, the first.

All these terms will in fact occur in the pages that follow, but less often than the words [imitate] and [imitation,] to which they are subordinated. An incident or speech that imitates another one will echo it, and will repeat at least some of its elements, but the idea of imitation, which in the Renaissance is rarely absent from discussions of literary composition, eliminates mere accident and introduces an element of design, of purpose, of consciousness, even self-consciousness. In the simplest cases, responsibility for imitation will appear to belong to a character. In the second act of King Lear, for instance, Oswald says to Kent, [Why, what a monstrous fellow art thou…,] and Kent responds, [What a brazen-faced varlet art thou….] (2.2.24, 27), the form of his statement deliberately imitating Oswald's and mockingly criticizing it, and him, for the too-familiar [thou,] one way that Oswald has obeyed Goneril's order to [come slack of former services] (1.3.10). The playwright, Shakespeare, creates the words of both Oswald and Kent, but the happenstance that the words of the latter clearly mimic those of the former demonstrates the cleverness and ingenuity primarily of Kent and only secondarily of the playwright; it creates the illusion first of Kent's real existence, then of his in-

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