Casual Shakespeare: Three Centuries of Verbal Echoes

Hohl Trillini, Regula. (2018) Casual Shakespeare: Three Centuries of Verbal Echoes. Routledge Studies in Shakespeare, 30. New York and London.

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Casual Shakespeare is the first full-length study of the thousands of quotations both in and of Shakespeare's works which represent intertextuality outside of what is conventionally appreciated as literary value. Drawing on the insights from a major, ongoing Digital Humanities project, the HyperHamlet database (www.hyperhamlet.unibas.ch) , this study posits a historical continuum of casual quotation which informs Shakespeare's own works as well as their afterlives. This groundbreaking, rigorous analysis offers a new approach and understanding of the uses to which phrases like 'To be or not to be' have been put from the sixteenth century to the Romantic age. The hot post-Shakespeare topics of editing and adaptation fail to address one question in a systematic manner: Where has all the language gone? Small-scale, phrase-size adaptation and repetition of bits of Shakespeare, more or less casual references in novels, book titles, advertisements, parliamentary debates, journalism and everyday conversation represent a kind of reproduction that is far more widespread than even the most popular of adaptations. Casual Shakespeare proposes pay, for the first time, sustained attention to a truly popular aspect of the Shakespeare success story: the way in which his language continues to flourish out of context. The intrinsic qualities of Shakespeare’s plays and his monumental fame certainly had a part in popularizing those bits of language, but “surely greatness alone can not be sufficient” (Balz Engler). Indeed, quotability is a more specific quality than greatness. Quotable phrases can work with or without reference to an original author or context, indeed they are typical not only of proverbial Shakespearean tags but of our use of those proverbs and idioms of which there really is no ‘original version’. Casual Shakespeare discusses these qualities as typical of the way in which Shakespeare worked with language, of the patterns of phrasing, framing and modification that make Shakespeare’s language literally “memory-able”. Many utterances of Shakespearean characters sound like famous sayings because that is what they have become to us, but also because they were famous already to him. So how is a phrase like “a sea of troubles” Shakespeare’s? Why do we remember it as his, although it could be credited to Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides or Erasmus, and was immensely popular in 17 th -century Protestant discourse? The question recalls Sixties’ notions of “intertextualité”, of “text” supplanting “work” and of “The Author” yielding pride of place to “readers”. Such radical concepts have rarely been applied to Shakespeare, but thinking in these lately neglected terms enables us to interrogate the role we assign to Shakespeare as an author, as well as the workings of the mind of the writer behind the author. Claiming that Shakespeare is a genius of quotation requires the courage of stepping away from him. We must look beyond the author and beyond meaning -laden literary reference to his works in order to explore artistically inferior, casual and even unintentional re-productions of his motifs and words.
Faculties and Departments:04 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Departement Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaften > Fachbereich Englische Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft
UniBasel Contributors:Hohl Trillini, Regula
Item Type:Book
Book Subtype:Authored Book
Number of Pages:199
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Authored book
Last Modified:19 Sep 2018 14:51
Deposited On:19 Sep 2018 14:51

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