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date: 14 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Wordsworth returned to the 1796 draft of The Borderers in 1842. In revising the play, he confronted again the two problems that aggravated the original composition: 1) how was Rivers/Oswald able to compel Mortimer/Marmaduke to murder a frail blind old man; 2) what were his motives. Even the radical rewriting during Wordsworth’s first year of work on the tragedy indicates more a concern with adjusting the circumstances of the plot to deepen the dark psychological assault of one of the main characters on the other. In the 1796 version, Rivers is depicted as reenacting the stratagem of the historical Macbeth using an elixir of belladonna to drug and vanquish Harold Harefoot’s Danish troops. A reliance on ‘strong’ medicines almost vanishes from the 1842 revision. Wordsworth replaced the medicinally induced mind-control and relied exclusively on the corrupting power of Oswald’s insinuations and deceptions.

Keywords: Borderers, Rivers, Oswald, Mortimer, Marmaduke, deception, doubt, drugs, evil, suspicion

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