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Bartlett’s Evolving Shakespeare

  • Helen M. Whall

Abstract

Long before digital media, long before the movies, television, and radio—let alone e-books and Madison Avenue—quotation books “appropriated” Shakespeare. At least since John Heywood’s 1546 collection of proverbs, compendiums of famous and worthy sayings, played a significant role both in shaping and reflecting the popular cultures of English-speaking peoples. Shakespeare, whose plays demonstrate how well tuned his own ear was to the shapely phrases turned by others, ultimately became the core of the leading American book of sayings, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. In the sixteenth edition of Bartlett’s, released in the fall of 1992, there are over 1,900 quotations from Shakespeare. The Bible comes in second at 1,591 entries. Around the Shakespeare/Bible core, the complete Bartlett’s itself has grown from a slim 258 page volume printed privately by bookseller John Bartlett in 1855 to the 1,405 page “best-seller” that American parents often buy high-school graduates (along with a dictionary—or the equivalent software) as they pack them off to college. That very equation of Bartlett’s, a. quintessential nonacademic text, with a research tool itself speaks volumes of the ways mass marketing blurs rather than crosses the boundaries and barricades so often placed between the artist and the academy, the academy and “the people.”

Keywords

Digital Medium American Book Complete Index Mass Marketing History Play 
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Works Cited

  1. Bartlett, John. 1855. A Collection of Familiar Quotations with Complete Indices of Authors and Subjects. Cambridge, MA: Josiah Bartlett.Google Scholar
  2. —. 1858. A Collection of Familiar Quotations with Complete Indices of Authors and Subjects. 3d ed. Cambridge, MA: Josiah Bardett.Google Scholar
  3. —. 1937. Familiar Quotations: A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Proverbs Traced to Their Sources in Ancient and Modern literature, 11th ed. Ed. by Christopher Morley. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.Google Scholar
  4. —. 1968. Familiar Quotations: A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Proverbs Traced to Their Sources in Ancient and Modern literature, 14th ed. Ed. by Emily Morison Beck. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.Google Scholar
  5. —. 1992. Familiar Quotations, 16th ed. Ed. by Justin Kaplan. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.Google Scholar
  6. Burt, Richard. 2002. “To e- or not to e-? Disposing of Schlockespeare in the Age of Digital Media,” in Shakespeare After Mass Media. Ed. by Richard Burt. New York: Palgrave, 1–32.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Richard Burt 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helen M. Whall

There are no affiliations available

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