The traditional way of conceiving source study is to think of it as an elephants’ graveyard. This conclusion proposes that in what was considered a ‘graveyard’ there is a very live ‘elephant’ that enacts dynamically with what it encounters. The textual resources that Shakespeare deploys are not inert or skeletal; they are dynamic, and that dynamism is repeated in the ways in which subsequent generations of writers have appropriated, deployed, plagiarised Shakespearean texts and made of them literary artefacts.
This chapter explores the formulae available to the practising early modern dramatist, and the ways in which they were deployed. It takes the notion of the ‘meme’ – a recurrent formulation used to negotiate particular situations, both as phenomena to be repeated (and recognised by an audience) and as a starting point for theatrical and textual innovation.
This chapter offers a survey of the language of source study in relation to Shakespeare that initiates the enquiry into the breadth of Shakespeare’s reading, what was available to him, and how these materials find their way into the discourse of source study and thence into the work of the practising early modern dramatist.
This chapter charts the history of the emergence of a critical vocabulary for dealing with source study as formulated initially by Bullough and developed by others. It initiates an examination of the conceptual framework that has underpinned the study of sources. This chapter also contains a review of some of the more recent critical attempts to break free from established methods of source enquiry.
This chapter examines the mythical nature of ‘origins’ and the extent to which certain types of source criticism depends upon a linear dimension that is designed to trace the process of composition back to the moment (usually mystified) of creation.
Building on the way in which intertextuality problematises the concept of linearity in relation to textual transmission, this chapter interrogates the tendency in Bullough-derived critical discourse to distinguish between text and ‘background’. The argument builds on Hulme and Barker’s conceptualisation of ‘con-text’ as part of a constellation of active textual components that are in constant dialogue with each other, rather than as texts that are hierarchically arranged.
This extends the study initiated in Chapter 7 to consider some of the ways in which Shakespeare continually returned to, and reworked, elements of his earlier plays, to the point where we should consider him as a dramatist who could fabricate his own resources, repeat and extend them in a number of different directions.
A substantial rethinking of the field of Shakespeare’s ‘sources’ that re-evaluates the vocabulary initiated by Geoffrey Bullough in his monumental Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare. Beginning with a revaluation of Bullough, the book addresses issues such as the nature of con-text, influence versus confluence, intertextuality and the ways in which the term has been interpreted, and the manner in which Shakespeare returned to and developed earlier motifs, situations, memes and dramatic forms. This approach raises questions of how Shakespeare read, what was available to him and how this material may have circulated and filtered into the theatre; it also considers the ways in which a study of the materials available to the practising dramatist can be considered a vital part of theatrical activity, and something wholly different from what used to be regarded from the point of view of scholarly investigation as a relatively uninteresting activity.
This chapter argues that texts deploy particular strategies that function to complicate the processes of borrowing. The early modern genealogies of texts problematised issues of what we now regard as ‘plagiarism’, and this chapter seeks to expose the specifically literary investments that critics have made in their attempts to trace specific textual links between the plays and antecedent literary texts.
Shakespeare, Jonson and the circulation of theatrical ideas
This chapter takes as its major premiss that Shakespeare persistently returned to his own earlier works, and reformulated them. It begins with Shakespeare’s role in Jonson’s Every Man in His Humour in which the figure of the jealous merchant Thorello appears. The recurrence of this meme is traced through exemplary comedies, tragedies and tragicomedies, exploring the ways in which the Jonsonian figure and his predicament were diffused throughout the Shakespeare oeuvre.