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Shakespeare’s Sources

Sue Shearman | Tuesday July 21, 2009

Categories: Shakespeare, Shakespeare - Other Activities and Resources

A play’s ‘source’ is the thing that influenced it. It might mean that a similar play or story existed before and has been adapted by the playwright or that the playwright is responding to a person, event or theme in recent history.

The Merchant of Venice is based on The Jew of Malta

Richard III is a direct reply and homage to Edward II.

King Lear and Hamlet are both reworkings of earlier popular plays. ‘

Macbeth was written for James I/VI and the porter scene is no longer funny as it is a satire on one of the leading figures in The Gunpowder Plot. There is also a reference to a medal James had struck early in 1606 to commemorate the foiling of the plot: ‘Look like th’innocent flower/But be the serpent under’t’.


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