To include in his Bookprint or not to include in his Bookprint, that is the question…
By Lia on April 23rd, 2012
As one of the most influential poets and playwrights of all time, William Shakespeare left a lasting imprint on the literary world. Though some people still question whether or not Shakespeare actually penned all 37 plays and 154 sonnets himself, his work undoubtedly shaped modern drama and literature as we know it.
Hundreds of readers on YouAreWhatYouRead.com– myself included– have added at least one of Shakespeare’s works to their Bookprint, indicating that his plays and/or sonnets have somehow left an indelible impression on their lives. Today marks the 396th anniversary of Shakespeare’s (presumed) birth and death, and what better way to celebrate his literary legacy than to create a Bookprint on his behalf? I can only hope that Shakespeare would approve at least one or two of my choices…
If I got to pick the five books that most influenced Shakespeare, they would be:
- The Odyssey by Homer – Many of Shakespeare’s plays allude to Greek mythology. The three witches in Hamlet, for instance, bear a striking resemblance to the Fates: three women who act as puppeteers of human lives, controlling each movement. Shakespeare’s classical education supposedly focused on Greek mythology, Roman comedy, ancient history, rhetoric, grammar, Latin, and possibly Greek, which makes me think Shakespeare would have chosen to include Homer’s epic in his Bookprint.
- Romeus and Juliet by Arthur Brooke – As you may have guessed from the title, Shakespeare based much of his play Romeo and Juliet on this tragic poem. Check out this interesting piece from the American Repertory Theater on how Romeus became Romeo.
- Metamorphoses by Ovid - In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare pokes fun at Pyramus and Thisbe–characters from Book 4 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses whose parents forbid them to wed because of a longstanding family rivalry. (Of course Romeo and Juliet also addresses the idea of star-crossed lovers…) Shakespeare seems to have been influenced by Ovid’s work, at least to an extent; I like to think that he might have included Metamorphoses in his Bookprint.
- Holinshed’s Chronicles – I have a confession to make: I’d never heard of Holinshed’s Chronicles before, but when I sat down to do a little research for this OOM post, several reliable-looking Google search results pointed me toward this work. Published in multiple volumes and two editions, both in the late 1500s, Holinshed’s Chronicles aims to provide a comprehensive history of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and is thought to have influenced many of Shakespeare’s plays, including Macbeth.
- The Bible - From references to the original sin in As You Like It to the relationship between Cain and Abel in Hamlet and Richard II, Shakespeare’s plays incorporate countless Biblical allusions and references. Given the influence it seems to have had on much of his work, I think it’s safe to guess that Shakespeare would have chosen The Bible as one of his five Bookprint picks.
What books do you think Shakespeare would have included in his Bookprint? Share your thoughts in the comments!
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