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Home :: Archive :: 2010 :: November ::
Allusion to Shakespeare in Poe's The Tell Tale Heart
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0421  Wednesday, 3 November 2010

From:         Joseph Egert <
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Date:         November 3, 2010 5:02:51 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0410  Allusion to Shakespeare in Poe's The Tell Tale Heart
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0410  Allusion to Shakespeare in Poe's The Tell Tale Heart

After itemizing the parallels between Shakespeare's HAMLET and Poe's TELL-TALE 
HEART, Arnie Perlstein concludes:

"There are indeed more things in literature than are dreamt of in the philosophy of 
most literary scholars, if an amateur like myself is the first person to see this 
profound connection between the famous writings of two great and renowned authors!"

Congratulations, Arnie!

Poe's guilt-ridden tale reeks of MACBETH as well:

http://books.google.com/books?id=TW8dt5To9fAC&pg=PA25&dq=%22threads+of+the+scarlet+
letter%22+%22very+probably+have+recognized%22&hl=en&ei=TMnRTOSuCIKglAfOnLzvDA&sa=X&
oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCYQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

And Hawthorne would also very probably have recognized an important indebtedness in 
"The Tell-Tale Heart" to an even more famous work concerning the murder of an old 
man in his bed-Shakespeare's _Macbeth_. At the very center of Poe's story, his 
narrator directs a ray of light upon the old man's veiled eye-what he terms "the 
damned spot" (_Collected Works_ 3:795). As Richard Wilbur has noted, Poe thus 
alludes to the guilt-ridden Lady Macbeth, who, in the renowned sleepwalking scene, 
apostrophizes the blood she perceives on her hand, "Out, damn'd spot! Out, I say!" 
(5.1.35). Hawthorne had alluded to _Macbeth_ in an 1839 letter to Sophia ("Hurley-
Burley," 15:316 [see _Macbeth_ 1.1.3]) and in the 1842 story "The Lily's Quest" (the 
stream stained with a murderer's blood, 9:446 [see _Macbeth_ 2.2.57-60]), and he had 
alluded specifically to Lady Macbeth's words in her sleepwalking scene in his 1835 
travel piece, "Sketches from Memory" ("all the perfumes of Arabia," 11:299 [see 
Macbeth 5.1.50-51]. It is interesting to add that Hawthorne would read Shakespeare 
to his wife in 1844 (16:13), and she would allude to _Macbeth_ in a letter in 1845 
(regarding Una's "murthered" sleep, 16:109 [see _Macbeth_2.2.33]). And he would 
later teach his children passages from Shakespeare, and his son Julian would readily 
draw on _Macbeth_ (regarding an older woman's "golly locks" [see _Macbeth_ 3.4.49-
50]. As he read "The Tell-Tale Heart" in January 1843, Hawthorne would surely have 
been struck not only by its reliance on Daniel Webster's speech, but also by its 
allusion to Shakespeare's _Macbeth_.

The Threads of _The Scarlet Letter_: A Study of Hawthorne's Transformative Art. By 
Richard Kopley (Associated University Presses, 2003): 25-26.

Regards,
Joe Egert

[Editor's Note: FYI: For your convenience, I added the quotation and citation from 
the pages Joe refers us to in Google Books. -Hardy]

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