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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Sources: part two

A couple of days back, we took a look at the major (historical) sources for Macbeth: Holinshed’s Chronicles, and two other Scottish histories, Hector Boece’s Scotorum Historiae and George Buchanan’s Rerum Scoticarum Historia. Those are fine for the human elements of the story, but what about the not-so-human elements?

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Sources: part one

The most widely cited historical sources for Shakespeare’s Macbeth are Holinshed’s Chronicles and two other Scottish histories, Hector Boece’s Scotorum Historiae and George Buchanan’s Rerum Scoticarum Historia.

Let’s take a look at Holinshed first…

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King Lear: Sources, part three

As noted before, the two major sources for King Lear are Holinshed’s Chronicles and an anonymous play, The True Chronicle History of King Leir and his three daughters Gonerill, Ragan and Cordella.

However, there are a couple of other non-literary influences that may have played a part in Shakespeare’s creation of the play…

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King Lear: Sources, part two

The most widely cited sources for Shakespeare’s King Lear are Holinshed’s Chronicles and an anonymous play, The True Chronicle History of King Leir and his three daughters Gonerill, Ragan and Cordella.

Last month, we took a quick look at Holinshed. Now let’s examine King Leir

Continue reading “King Lear: Sources, part two”

King Lear: sources, part one

The most widely cited sources for Shakespeare’s King Lear are Holinshed’s Chronicles and an anonymous play, King Leir.

Let’s take a look at Holinshed first…

Continue reading “King Lear: sources, part one”

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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Measure for Measure: sources

OK, so we all know Willy Shakes was a master…borrower. But with Measure for Measure, Shakespeare’s lineage of plotline seems more like natural selection than the picking and choosing of a thief.

Lemme ‘splain…

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Sources

Unlike many of Shakespeare’s plays, All’s Well That Ends Well doesn’t seem pilfered from multiple sources. No, it looks like Willy only stole from one author here.

In the mid-fourteenth century, Italian writer and poet Giovanni Boccaccio wrote what is considered to be his masterpiece, The Decameron, a collection of stories, told from the perspective of ten characters who each told ten stories apiece (deca is the Greek root for the number 10, natch). Think of The Decameron as the Italian Canterbury Tales… before there was The Canterbury Tales.

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