6. Arden’s Speech on the Fear of God and Speech of Men

In North’s Dial of Princes, Marcus Aurelius complains that in most instances, religious teachings and concern for reputation are often enough to keep women virtuous. But, he says, “if the fear of the Gods, the infamy of the person, and the speech of men do not restrain the woman, all the chastisements of the worldContinue reading “6. Arden’s Speech on the Fear of God and Speech of Men”

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”

4. Romeo’s Sorrow

In North’s own copy of his translation of the 1582 edition of The Dial of Princes, the translator adds a marginal note highlighting the “description of sorrow (Fol. 296 in 1582 edition; 475 in 1619 ed.) The passage describes how people act when they are depressed: they crave solitude, hate the day, love the night,Continue reading “4. Romeo’s Sorrow”

3. The Miseries of Hecuba and Hamlet’s Play to Catch The Conscience of a King

After Hamlet watches an actor perform a tragic description of Hecuba’s agonies caused by the “tyrant Pyrrhus,” he expresses astonishment at the actor’s abilities to fake such deep sorrow: “For Hecuba! / What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba, / That he should weep for her?” (2.2.558-60). In this same speech, the Prince thenContinue reading “3. The Miseries of Hecuba and Hamlet’s Play to Catch The Conscience of a King”

1. Iago’s Speech on He Who Robs Me of My Good Name

Thomas North would publish his first translation, The Dial of Princes, in 1557, seven years before Shakespeare was born. And we do not even complete its first page before we come across something that sounds suspiciously Shakespearean — specifically, a passage that reads much like Iago’s speech on the thief of reputation in Othello. North’sContinue reading “1. Iago’s Speech on He Who Robs Me of My Good Name”

Wouldn’t Someone Have Complained That Shakespeare Used Old Plays? (They Did!)

Another question I often hear is: “Why didn’t anyone complain about this? Why didn’t people at the time mention that Shakespeare was just working from old plays?” I always respond that many people did complain about it—and many of these complaints are well known. Literary insiders repeatedly bemoaned the fact that Shakespeare was getting tooContinue reading “Wouldn’t Someone Have Complained That Shakespeare Used Old Plays? (They Did!)”