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date: 22 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter provides a narrative account of Shakespeare’s schooling in classical literature and the range of classical texts that influenced his poetry. It traces not just the evolution of Shakespeare’s relationship to classical writing, but the differing ways in which both the poems and the plays alert their readers to their classical sources. ‘Classical’ moments can be tagged as distinct from the surrounding works by the use of archaisms or neologisms (as in the speech on the death of Priam in Hamlet) or by a range of other lexical and theatrical framing devices. It is argued that Shakespeare’s use of these effects, which could be regarded as virtual quotation marks around many of his allusions to classical works, contributed in the longer term to his undeserved reputation as a playwright who lacked classical knowledge.

Keywords: Shakespeare, classical literature, Ovid, Virgil, Seneca

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