Create a new account

It's simple, and free.

Shakespeare's "Borrowing"

William Shakespeare was a great plagiarist. In so saying, the word "great" is used in both its connotations: Shakespeare's plagiarisms resulted in great plays - and he plagiarized a great deal. In the modern world of letters he would be either critically censured for massive "borrowings" from other sources, or spending a lot of his time in court fighting off copyright infringement lawsuits. His approach to theater was purely practical on this point: if an idea, storyline or remembered phrasing came to mind and fit in with the piece he was writing, throw it into the play - if it worked for the actors, use it. In so creating his plays, Shakespeare utilized an organic approach that incorporated history, poetry, philosophy, current events and actors' personalities in the shaping of the final work; his eye and ear were attuned to the effect as a whole, as a performance. In such a context the eclecticism of his borrowing betrays a commonsense integrity. No one faults an actor for "stealing" a bit from another actor, or for reinterpreting a role originated by someone else. In a similar context, 250 years later, Richard Wagner would justify such a concept as "Gesamtskunstwerk," or "total artwork"; for Shakespeare it was a Renaissance heritage, this synthesis of other works into a new whole, particularly models from the past (Kirby xiii & xvi). In the creation of The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice he followed this pattern of wholesale plagiarism without hesitation.

Almost the entire storyline of Othello is lifted from a story, one of several, in Giovanni Battista Giraldi Cinthio's book Gli Hecatommithi, published in Italian in 1565, translated into French by Gabriel Chappuys in 1584 (Kermode 1198). There was no English translation of the story until after Shakespeare's death. Consequently, there is some debate over whether he read it in French, the most common historical assumption (Kermode 1198), or had access to the I...

Page 1 of 7 Next >

More on Shakespeare's "Borrowing"...

APA     MLA     Chicago
Shakespeare's "Borrowing". (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 22:56, June 24, 2019, from