Shakespeare: A Literary Genius or A Clever Copywriter? background img
June 19, 2016

Shakespeare: A Literary Genius or A Clever Copywriter?

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The topic might come as a bit of a shock for you but honestly this is something which I have been pondering upon for a while now. If you have ever studied unabridged Shakespeare, you will learn more about his attitude and style by his plays.

Having said that, I studied Much Ado About Nothing as a part of my school days and the first page of the book we used had all the theories of where he might have got the story from. And that got me thinking if Shakespeare was actually a literary genius or just simply great at retelling stories?  I agree movies too these days are copied from one another but none of his plays ever mentioned any of the inspiring artists he picked the stories from. Would he pass the copy writing laws today? Think about this question once you have finished my article.

Here I will give you a list of 5 of the most popular plays of Shakespeare and where he might have picked the stories from and to what extent:

#1 Much Ado About Nothing

This dual romantic comedy surrounding the two main couple, the ever so famous Beatrice and Benedick and Hero and Claudio, has been copied from a play written by Bandello. In fact, Bandello is not the only one with this story line, there were many more who had the same story line as this play including authors like Baldassare and Ariosto, and Shakespeare simply picked up the same plot and built a little more story around it.

#2 The Two Gentlemen of Verona

This ancient play by Shakespeare might have been inspired heavily by a play that had already been performed known as “The History of Felix and Philiomena” which was a Spanish romance, historians believe that Shakespeare might have happened to come across a manuscript of the play because of which he adapted it into a play of his own. While another influence being the story of “The Boke Named Governour” which gave him the idea for the popular friendship in the play.

#3 The Comedy of Errors

This happened to be one of the most famous plays by Shakespeare and even this play has been widely accepted to have been copied by a play written by Plautus in 200 BC called “The Brothers Menaechmi”. This play was in reality copied by a lot of play writers other than Shakespeare and he just happened to be one of them.

#4 Romeo and Juliet

This might come as a shock to you. This play ended up being the basis for almost all love stories further written in the future of mankind and the most commonly used example for the idea of love. This play was also listed from a poem written by Arthur Brooke called “The Tragic History of Romeus and Juliet” which was in turn lifted from a story by Bandello again.

#5 Hamlet

One of the Most popular plays by the bard in all times, this play was inspired by “Gesta Danorum” which translated to “Deeds of the Danes” written by Saxo Grammaticus in the year 1200. This play by Shakespeare about life and death also turned up to be one inspired by a previously written story.

While some of you might believe that it was absolutely okay for a playwriter to get inspired by other plays, but then doesn’t it come as shock to see that the most popular stories that you have grown up hearing have actually not come from the original literary genius in reality. So now it’s for you to decide, was Shakespeare a genius or simply an over-hyped play writer? Share your opinion in the comments and share this article to let the other Shakespeare buffs know the reality.

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