The Roman Tragedies

Just Believe Your Eyes

Shakespeare’s Roman tragedies take their entire plots, all of their characters, and many of their most famous speeches directly from the relevant chapters in Thomas North’s Plutarch’s Lives. As the dozens of tables here indicate, they are scene-by-scene remakes. This helps confirm two important points: First, Shakespeare would indeed get full authorial credit for close adaptations of North’s writings. And North did have the ability to write long monologues that are not readily distinguishable from Shakespearean ones.

As editor C. F. 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.”