28. Pages and Pages of North’s Passages in “Julius Caesar”

Julius Caesar is yet another Shakespearean tragedy that has been taken whole from North’s Plutarch’s Lives. The play is a scene-by-scene remake of North’s chapters on Julius Caesar and Marcus Brutus. Note in the picture above, not only is the playwright closely following North’s Plutarch, he also borrows material from North’s Dial. We will discussContinue reading “28. Pages and Pages of North’s Passages in “Julius Caesar””

27. Dozens of North’s Passages in “Antony & Cleopatra”

1. Each of the 11 pictures will showcase another page of passages in Antony & Cleopatra that clearly derive from related material in North’s Plutarch’s Lives. Each will also include a scholar’s quote related to North’s “incomparable prose” and Shakespeare’s debt to it. 2. “The music of that play’s language still has this effect upon me. AndContinue reading “27. Dozens of North’s Passages in “Antony & Cleopatra””

26. Dozens of North’s Passages in “Coriolanus”

1. Each of the eight attached pictures will show another page of speeches in Coriolanus that clearly derive form related passages in North’s Plutarch’s Lives. 2. Michael Blanding’s North by Shakespeare will explore arguments that North actually wrote the plays on Julius Caesar, Coriolanus, and Antony and Cleopatra based on his chapters in Plutarch’s LivesContinue reading “26. Dozens of North’s Passages in “Coriolanus””

25. Coriolanus’s Address to Aufidius

After listing a series of dramatic passages in Coriolanus and Antony and Cleopatra that were taken almost verbatim from North, the editor Tucker Brooke wrote: “[T]hese passages, all of which rank among the special treasures of Shakespearean poetry, come straight and essentially unaltered out of North… “In the passages I have cited there is littleContinue reading “25. Coriolanus’s Address to Aufidius”

24. The Poetic Description of Cleopatra’s Barge on the River Cydnus

Before many Shakespeareans had learned that the Roman plays actually came straight from North, some would occasionally highlight some of North’s passages in these works as among their favorite, writing long essays on how they demonstrate the playwright’s genius. For example, in an early-twentieth-century series of reviews in Harpers’ Monthly Magazine, the critic James DouglasContinue reading “24. The Poetic Description of Cleopatra’s Barge on the River Cydnus”

23. The Death of Cleopatra

One of the most famous scenes in the canon is the immortal description of Cleopatra’s suicide. This too, like the rest of the play, comes from North: North’s Plutarch’s Lives (1580) Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra (1607) [H]er other woman called Charmian [stood]half-dead and trembling, trimming the Diadem which Cleopatra wore upon her head. One ofContinue reading “23. The Death of Cleopatra”

22. Volumnia’s Speech to Save Rome (Full Version)

In the post that introduces “Week Four: The Roman Adaptations,” we included a depiction of the opening of Volumnia’s speech to save Rome, but as shown above (and in the table below) the borrowed exchange is actually far more extensive. In fact, as we will continue to see this week, the question of whether ShakespeareContinue reading “22. Volumnia’s Speech to Save Rome (Full Version)”

The Roman Adaptations

While many of Shakespeare’s borrowings derive from North’s translations, it is important to stress that it was North’s particular English wording that so captured the attention of the playwright—not the French, Italian, and Spanish words of the original author. Indeed, North frequently veered from the original foreign text to rework it into his own masterfulContinue reading “The Roman Adaptations”

5. North’s “Dial” and Caesar’s Speech on Death and Cowards

As is well known, Caesar’s speech that “Cowards die many times before their deaths” was hinted at in North’s Plutarch’s Lives. But previously, it was believed that Shakespeare took that hint and then refashioned it himself with many new details. Yet, as we see both above and below, the specific words and notions of theContinue reading “5. North’s “Dial” and Caesar’s Speech on Death and Cowards”