Saturday, March 29, 2008

Hack adaptor?


First play on my list is going to be Two Gentlemen of Verona: And just to prepare the ground, I thought I better check out the sources.

One of those intriguing snippets has poopped (poo, not pop) out about the story - In the words of Wiki, where I checked the original, Shakespeare, "... could have learned of it from an anonymous English play of 1585, The History of Felix and Philiomena, which is now lost."

Hold on ... yesterday we decided Young Will was an actor - he was on stage in other people's plays, and they are going to have an influence on what he writes ...

Today we get his first play is possibly an adaptation of an already written adaptation of a 'prose romance' (Diana Enamorada by the Portuguese writer Jorge de Montemayor).

And hiding in the wings is the second play - The Shrew! Which could also have a source in a previous play - although Wiki ain't good on that: Will someone go and correct them please?

I suspect there is a theme developing here - was Shakes employed to steal and do cover versions of the successes of other theatres?

Makes sense of the way both he and his theatre group kept close his own later works - he learnt from his own experiences.

It also gives a certain piquancy to the much vilified Robert Greene:

There is an upstart crow beautified with our feathers that, with his 'tiger's heart wrapped in a player's hide,' supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you; being an absolute Johannes Factotum, in his conceit the only shake-scene in a country.

Robert Greene
Groatsworth of Wit (1592)

2 comments:

Gedaly said...

You know, I never really though of Shakespeare using plays he had acted in as sources for his work.

It brings to mind the sort of actor in the company who directors loathe for not sticking to the script. "I don't think my character would say that there." Perhaps Shakespeare took it a few steps further.

-G

Alan K.Farrar said...

It is all speculation - but people who 'bardolate' do tend to forget the theatrical context Shakespeare worked in.

All the plays produced in the world are co-operations to some extent.

And an increasing acceptance of Shakespeare as a 'collaborator' doesn't diminish the quality of the plays.

An earlier post by me - on Shakespeare stealing - makes the point about connections between plays by other authors.