Shakespearean Intertextuality: Studies in Selected Sources and Plays

Shakespearean Intertextuality: Studies in Selected Sources and Plays

Shakespearean Intertextuality: Studies in Selected Sources and Plays

Shakespearean Intertextuality: Studies in Selected Sources and Plays

Synopsis

Though one of the greatest dramatists to have written in English, Shakespeare was not entirely original. He borrowed his plots from various sources, reworked his material, and infused it with his keen perception of humanity and unusual gift of language. This book looks at four of Shakespeare's plays--As You Like It, King Lear, Pericles, and The Winter's Tale--and the primary source texts on which they are based, to show how the dramatist refashioned earlier works. Each chapter examines one play in relation to its major source and to the historical and cultural contexts in which both the play and source were written. Shakespeare's sources thus emerge not merely as raw material for plot and character, but as dynamic and often inconsistent texts involving layers of subtextual and intertextual suggestions and assumptions. The volume demonstrates that in his revisionary practices, Shakespeare does not simply borrow selectively from his sources but appropriates, reimagines, and reacts against them, often by developing and expanding upon contrary suggestions already present in his source texts.

Excerpt

The concept of the literary source has undergone in recent years an almost infinite expansion to include virtually all expressions of language in a culture: not merely immediate literary or historical influences, but vast arrays of texts (written and unwritten, known and unknown to the author), along with endless networks of linguistic and discursive structures (patterns of thought and logic, commonplace analogies, habitual figures of speech). Shakespeare's plays are no longer seen as based on a few assorted borrowings, but are now seen as interventions in preexistent fields of textuality. The old notion of particular and distinct sources has given way to new notions of boundless and heterogeneous intertextuality.

Perhaps in light of amorphous textuality the old-fashioned source can be newly examined. While recent studies have tended to go further and further afield in search of contextual corollaries and analogues to Shakespeare's plays, the conventional sources have been largely neglected. Yet Shakespeare's immediate source texts can provide especially relevant contextual vantage points from which we can study Shakespeare's plays. Though traditional source studies have tended to see sources as static building blocks that Shakespeare picked over, rearranged, and artfully improved, the sources themselves can be reexamined as products of intertextuality -- endlessly complex, multilayered fields of interpretation that Shakespeare refashioned and reconfigured into alternative fields of interpretation. We can reconsider the source texts not merely as raw material for plot and character, but as dynamic and often inconsistent texts involving layers of implicit and subtextual suggestions. For example, in refashioningLodge Rosalynde into As You Like It . . .

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