The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0139 Friday, 16 February 2018
Date: February 15, 2018 at 4:57:22 PM EST
Subject: Plagiarism Software and Shakespeare Sources
Jim Carroll wrote:
“I agree with Michael Luskin. Plagiarism is hardly the word. The review highlights an example provided by Dennis McCarthy: “In the dedication to his manuscript, for example, North urges those who might see themselves as ugly to strive to be inwardly beautiful, to defy nature. He uses a succession of words to make the argument, including “proportion,” “glass,” “feature,” “fair,” “deformed,” “world,” “shadow” and “nature.” In the opening soliloquy of Richard III (“Now is the winter of our discontent …”) the hunchbacked tyrant uses the same words in virtually the same order to come to the opposite conclusion: that since he is outwardly ugly, he will act the villain he appears to be. Here is the brief passage from George North from the excerpt in the NY Times piece, transcribed by me:
“According to the golden counsel of that grave philosopher who willeth us oft to view our own PROPORTION in a GLASS, whose form and FEATURE we find fair and worthy to frame our affections accordingly, if otherwise the hair (by skill or will) DEFORMED our outward appearance, and left us odible to the eye of the WORLD, then (to cure, SHADOW, or salve, the same) so to govern and guide our behavior, and so to moderate our inward man, as NATURE herself may...”
and Shakespeare’s R3:
But I, that am not shap'd for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-GLASS;
I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail'd of this fair PROPORTION,
Cheated of FEATURE by dissembling NATURE,
DEFORMED, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing WORLD, scarce half made up
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them —
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to see my SHADOW in the sun R3 1.14-26
Doesn’t this prove Shakespeare’s genius? He delights in North’s words—and reverses the context. It’s rather like his putting Plutarch’s description of Cleopatra in the mouth of Enobarbus.” END QUOTE FROM CARROLL POST
Yes, that is exactly what gives meaning to the allusion, and makes it more than a clever literary parlor trick. It shows WHY Shakespeare went to the trouble of leaving those keywords like a trail of textual breadcrumbs leading the knowing reader to the source he had worked from, thereby subliminally ironizing the reading of Richard III’s speech.
By close analogy, this is very much the same kind of sly, erudite authorial legerdemain by Shakespeare which I described in my below linked blog post in 2015. I showed that Shakespeare embedded a perfect “SATAN” acrostic in Friar Laurence’s speech to Juliet about the effect of the sleeping potion at pretty much the exact same place as Arthur Brooke embedded two “kissing” SATAN acrostics in Romeus & Juliet.
Just as with North’s meaningful keywords, Shakespeare does not merely slavishly copy his source, he wittily plays off his source, so that a reader who knows Brooke’s play will recognize that Shakespeare created this acrostic in that particular speech, because he wanted it to be recognized that Friar Laurence (as per the Protestant trope of that era re Franciscan monks) is a “Satan” (as Brooke overtly says in his preface, but then seems to undercut in his poem), most of all when FL sets the plan in motion which will end up with Romeo, Juliet, and Paris all dead:
And in my above post, I also showed that Milton picked up on Shakespeare’s picking up on Brooke’s kissing serpentine Satans, in the (by now) well known SATAN acrostic in Paradise Lost.
It should finally be noted that these are not points likely to be noticed during a live performance of Shakespeare’s plays, these are literary “caviare” for the erudite readers of the texts of his plays.