The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2404 Friday, 19 December 2003
Date: Thursday, 18 Dec 2003 15:44:31 -0500
Subject: Shakespeare's Library
Comment: SHK 14.2384 Shakespeare's Library
Many years ago while rehearsing a production of Merry Wives, one of the
actors asked what Etna was. (This was after running Act III, scene 5
containing Falstaff's line "...I will be thrown into Etna, as I have
been into Thames..."). The actor was an intelligent and curious young
man in his late twenties, well read but with only a high school
education. Shakespeare helped him fill in some of the gaps in his
This caused me to wonder how much of the Will's 'scholarship' was
learned from the parts he played. When he began his career, playwriting
was dominated by the University Wit's, graduates of Cambridge and
Oxford. Some had traveled on the Continent. Few were shy about
displaying their knowledge in their works.
A successful actor in the 16th and 17th century would need a prodigious
memory. I understand that an company might add ten to twelve new plays
in a season and have as many plays in repertoire at any given time.
Surely Shakespeare absorbed much of the information contained in his
roles which would find its way into his plays.
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