Shakespeare’s Handling of His Sources

  • Philip Hobsbaum


Shakespeare never wrote if it was possible to rewrite. He had extraordinary powers of realising the implications latent in other people’s plots. Indeed, he treated previous writing as raw material for his re-creation. It was seldom, however, that he worked from a single source. The conflation of different texts proved, as far as he was concerned, tantamount to original composition. So we find Virgil brought into partnership with the Psalms of the Geneva Bible, Italian novelle marching alongside Pliny’s Naturall Historie, English folklore conjoining with reports from the new American plantations—and juxtapositions even more unlikely than these have been known to take place. Geoffrey Bullough’s anthology of narrative and dramatic sources, brought to an impressive conclusion as recently as 1975, tells only part of the story. Many of the sources are to be found in material that is anything but dramatic: political theory, theology, lyric and elegaic poetry, both English and Latin.


English Poetry Adverbial Clause Make Life Worth Living Shakespeare Play Early Scene 
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© Philip Hobsbaum 1979

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  • Philip Hobsbaum

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