Usually we talk about who Shakespeare influenced, but never the other way around. I recently learned that the story of Romeo and Juliet was borrowed from the old Greco-Roman myth of Pyramus and Thisbe, the tragic tale of two star-crossed lovers (likewise a rather shallow depiction of romance). Who and what else influenced Shakespeare, the greatest writer of the English language?
i really like this topic! it will be interesting to see what pops up (shakespeare being my favorite playwright) I like that you leave it to the writer to choose the plays instead of being tightknit on certain ones so they can do some research as well – scole8 years ago
I think this will make a great topic to approach. Since there was no actual law of copyrights, there are numerous and familiar literature pieces that have borrowed from ancient stories. – Arazoo Ferozan8 years ago
As You Like It's influence is incredibly interesting, for anyone who decides to tackle this beast of a topic. – chandlerwp8 years ago
It's actually not true that we never talk about who influenced Shakespeare. By reading his plays and poems we can see clear influences from Homer, Plato, Virgil, Ovid (who was his source for the Pyramus and Thisbe legend), Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Chaucer, Plutarch, Holinshed, Montaigne (particularly from the 1603 translation by John Florio), Spenser, Marlowe, and countless others. His works also illustrate that he had an extensive knowledge of a wide array of non-literary subjects, including (but not limited to) medicine, law, court politics, geography, sailing, witchcraft, falconry, and fencing, which surely necessitated a lot of reading. In the appendix to her book Sweet Swan of Avon, american scholar Robin P. Williams (no relation to the late comic) compiled a list of nearly every literary source which the poet must have read - as evidenced by references to them in some capacity throughout his body of work, thereby not counting anything that he may have read for pleasure without making any allusions to - and it wound up being eight times more than the total traceable sources of Ben Jonson, who is considered by many to be the second smartest playwright of the age. – ProtoCanon7 years ago
Many of the plays were not original ideas, but rather based on several source materials. Troilus and Cressida is a great example for instance as an Italian writer expanded of of Homer and the story got rewritten a couple of times--even by Chaucer!--before the Shakespeare even wrote his version. Focusing on a couple plays might help narrow the focus – ckmwriter7 years ago
Another thing to consider is that many of Shakespeare's plays were "work shopped" in the Globe Theater. He would write the greater chunk of the script, pulling from Classic sources, but he would revise them with both cast a crew. Also, as ProtoCanon mentioned earlier, many of his plays were directly influenced by classics and to put it lightly, many of them could be considered adaptations or "fan ficitons" (to put it bluntly). I think a better question would be, although greatly influential and a master of language in his own right, how much of Shakespeare's material was directly his own? Considering the work shopping, the borrowing from other sources, etc. how much did Shakespeare actually create? Perhaps this needs to be better worded (I'm struggling myself to plot this question out correctly) but I still think these things should be considered when writing for this topic. – Mela7 years ago
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