Shakespeare Was Not As Original As You Think
Entertainment

Shakespeare Was Not As Original As You Think

Even the most celebrated writer in the English language had to borrow his plots

234
Pexels

As an English major, I was taught that plays written by William Shakespeare borrowed from other authors. In fact, as part of my seminar class for my final semester as an English major, the curriculum revolved around William Shakespeare's play "King Lear" as well as the Elizabethan play that it was inspired by, which was "King Leir." Although the differences go beyond the "i" to "a" in the title, Shakespeare still had to repackage this play into a darker, more tragic one.

It would not be considered blatant plagiarism, but Shakespeare merely wrote within a system of literary ownership completely different from today. It was not a recent phenomenon to question the authenticity of Shakespeare's plays since they go all the way back to Shakespeare's time. For revising a part of Robert Greene's play "A Knack To Know A Knave" for "1 Henry IV," he called Shakespeare an "upstart crow," as well as a lot of insults. One in which was a mockery of one of the lines from "1 Henry IV" which was "tiger's heart."

When it comes to all three parts of "Henry IV," it was revealed that William Shakespeare co-wrote them with another famed playwright, Christopher Marlowe. This was deduced by finding similarities between those plays and Marlowe's writing style found in his own plays. To quote Hanspeter Born, the author of the article "Why Green was Angry at Shakespeare,"

"Every author has his own compositional and linguistic habits, making up a verbal fingerprint or DNA."

Technology plays an incredibly important role in examining Shakespeare's works and not in a literary way. It was revealed through an anti-plagiarism software that George North's English translation of "Plutarch's Lives" not only served as an inspiration to the plots of "Julius Caesar," "Antony and Cleopatra," and "Coriolanus," but he also used the same words such as "glass," "proportion," "feature," "fair," and other words within the same context of ugliness and beauty. Among other authors, Shakespeare borrowed from were Montaigne, George Gascoigne, Saxo the Grammarian and Leo Africanus.

So, it would not be the case that all of his works, besides "The Tempest," which was his only original play, are illegitimate. Although Shakespeare recycled plays, he offered his own unique interpretations that make the characters more dynamic and complex. He also answered the question that Ron Rosenbaum, author of the "The Shakespeare Wars," asked, which was "What makes Shakespeare Shakespeare?" In "King Lear," he made Lear into a rambling old man suffering from senility and made Edmund into a complex villain. The fact that Shakespeare can create truly human characters is definitely what makes his work Shakespearean.

What can fellow English majors or young people who want to become an English major take from this fact? It basically involves understanding the complex relationship between the author, his/her work and other author's works. On the one hand, inspiration can provide a starting point for writing, but the rest cannot be derivative. Otherwise, it actually would be considered plagiaristic. Not only that, but these discoveries of Shakespeare's sources could provide a gateway to studying those works he was inspired by.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Barefoot Wine Instagram

Have you noticed that you're drinking a lot more than you used to during the Pandemic? You're not alone.

I too in recent weeks have noticed that I'm drinking more than normal, and earlier in the day. I've started having a glass of wine with lunch a few days a week, something I never used to do. Although, a recent Odyssey survey shows that most Americans are starting to drink between 4 and 8 pm.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

These Phoebe Buffay Outfits Prove She's A '90s Fashion Icon — We're Replicating EVERY Single One

In case you needed another reason to love our favorite coffee shop singer.

NBC

I've always been described as the Phoebe of my friend group — not just for being a vegan, animal-loving people pleaser, but also for the false sense of confidence in my singing and athleticism.

I consider it a compliment to be labeled a Phoebe. Besides her general warmth, I was always drawn to her hippy-chic vibes and passion for environmentalism before it was even cool to be vegan or to care about the planet. The way she carelessly ran through parks flailing her limbs without a care mimicked her effortlessly eccentric style.

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

Elijah McClain's Case Is Being Reopened — His Family Is Still Waiting For Justice

The killing of an innocent Black man will be reinvestigated, and that news that brought me to tears.

9News / YouTube

On August 24, 2019, in Aurora, CO, a 23-year-old Black man named Elijah McClain was walking home from a convenience store after buying iced tea for his brother. He was wearing a ski mask because he was anemic and easily got cold. He was listening to music and dancing while he walked when someone called 911 on this Black man simply walking home.

Keep Reading... Show less

'Tis the season for wedding fun and if you're hosting or helping plan a bachelorette party for the bride-to-be, you're going to want it to be a blast. Whether it's a social distance soiree or a virtual party, games will always spice up the time with the gals, so if you're looking for a fun and easy one to get the party started (and everyone drunk), this game is for you.

What's the name of the game? "Drink If: Bachelorette Party Edition." Here's how it works.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

I Talked To My Friend About Her Cystic Fibrosis And Wow, CF Patients Are WARRIORS

Not many people can say they've had a double lung transplant.

Alissa Katz

Forty percent of the United States lives with a chronic disease. These diseases are unique in their own way, but one thing is the same — every individual who lives with a chronic condition faces obstacles because of their disease.

Not only do these illnesses require a lot of education for the individuals who have them, but for the community as a whole. The more we as a society know about these diseases, the more well-rounded (and ideally, helpful) we'll be. If anything, we'll have a greater appreciation for the strength individuals with chronic conditions show on a daily basis.

Keep Reading... Show less

We've all been there... your brain was telling you "bad idea," but your heart was saying "but what if..." and now you're heartbroken. Whether you were actually in a relationship with the person or you never made it passed the "talking stage" before he broke your heart, it still hurts!

The good news? You're not alone and things will get better. Here are a few TikToks that will motivate you to move on, no matter what stage of the breakup process you're in.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

How To Create A Summer Reading List On Odyssey

Books are the perfect summer companions.

It's officially summer 2020, and yes, we're still in the middle of a global pandemic, which means a lot of your free time this summer is probably going to involve watching Netflix. But you can't take Netflix to the pool or on the beach.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments