Category Archives: sources

Antony and Cleopatra: Sources

When it comes to Antony and Cleopatra and the concept of sources, we can look back on what Shakespeare’s sources were for the predecessor (of sorts), Julius Caesar.

In other words, cue Plutarch, and his Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans. That work by the Greek historian had been translated into French by writer Jacques Amyot in the early 1560’s. Thomas North then translated it into English, with his first edition appearing in the late 1570’s. Shakespeare has dipped into North’s translations before…and he does it again here.

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Macbeth and equivocation

Remember a few days back when discussing the more witchy sources for Macbeth (this after discussing Holinshed’s contributions to the more human side of the story), and how I said there was one more text that might be considered an influence if not a source? And I said I’d discuss that later when I hit the Porter scene?

Well, today, I’m a-hittin’ it…

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Sources: history?

OK, folks, we all know how Shakespeare picks and chooses (a) from whom he steals, (b) how much he steals, and (c) how much he massages those stolen goods. And that’s in his fictional plays. In the histories, he’s been known to compress time, changes ages, and make wholesale changes to his sources. Macbeth, though a tragedy, is no different.

Now, having already taken a look at his borrowings from Holinshed for the human characters and Scot for the not-so-human,  let’s take a look at the “real” history, shall we?

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Othello – sources

Critical consensus is that Othello is based on “Un Capitano Moro” (“A Moorish Captain”), by the Italian writer Giovanni Battista Giraldi, better known as Cinthio, which appeared as one of the stories in his collection called The Hecatommithi, in 1565. If that name sound familiar, your memory is pretty good: Cinthio’s Hecatommithi was also one of the sources behind our last play, Measure for Measure.

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