Today's Game : Shakespearean Self-References

Ok, here’s the game.  Find a quote in one play that looks like it’s a reference to another one.  Chances are it wasn’t, but then again who really knows, right? The most obvious one, perhaps, is when Macbeth says that he will not “play the Roman fool” and fall upon his sword….exactly like Brutus does at the end of Julius Caesar.  That one only half counts, since it’s obviously more a historical reference than Shakespeare directly referencing himself.  (There’s also the part in Hamlet where Polonius speaks of having played Caesar.) I thought of this thread during AYLI it the other day, since the character playing Jaques also played Bottom last year, and there’s a Jaques line where he says “If it do come to pass that any man turn ass….” which of course is exactly what happens to Bottom. Lastly, I think it’s funny to imagine that Amiens’ song: Blow, blow, thou winter wind.
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because though are not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Is actually a reference to Lear: Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow! But of course I realize that would be pushing my luck :).  Can’t you just imagine Lear on the heath breaking out into song?

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8 thoughts on “Today's Game : Shakespearean Self-References

  1. Now, work on this one:

    In Two Gentlemen of Verona, the Duke comes across Friar Laurence doing ‘penance’ in the forest – Same Friar L. as Romeo and Juliet? Doing penance for the mess up he caused in that play – could be, the plays share a source.

  2. I’ve occasionally wondered if “Alas, poor Yorrick” is supposed to refer back to the paper crown scene in Henry VI.3 (where Margaret says “Alas, poor York”).

  3. I seem to recall that Polonius mentioning that he played Caesar was meant to be a direct reference to the same actor having just played Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s play. “Brutus killed me” was a bit of foreshadowing, as the actor who played Brutus was the actor who played Hamlet. I don’t know offhand if this is known for sure, or is just speculation.

    In the epilogue for Henry V, there is a direct reference to Henry VI, Part One with “which oft our stage has shown.”

    I also believe the name Iachimo (in Cymbeline) is meant to be a reference to Iago.

    Those are the examples that spring to mind.

    Phoebe in AYL openly quotes a Christopher Marlowe sonnet, but that may fall outside of the boundaries of your question.

  4. Oh, I love these! There’s quite a few out there but I’m feeling lazy…

    Lear and Twelfth Night share a song, kind of.

    Lear’s fool sings one verse,
    “He that has and a little tiny wit-
    With hey, ho, the wind and the rain-
    Must make content with his fortunes fit,
    For the rain it raineth every day.”

    And Feste has 5 verses, the first:
    “When that I was and a little tiny boy,
    With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
    A foolish thing was but a toy,
    For the rain it raineth every day. “

  5. Someone once told me that Macbeth’s “Tomorrow” speech was about Bottom from AMND.

    To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
    Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
    To the last syllable of recorded time;
    And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
    The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
    Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
    And then is heard no more. It is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.

    They also said that Bottom says something that could in turn be interpreted to be about Macbeth, but I don’t know what that would be…

  6. Oh, I see. The game is to find what looks like a reference, whether it is or not. In that case…

    In Measure for Measure, the Duke says that he has:

    “seen corruption boil and bubble,/Till it o’er-run the stew”

    Could this be a reference to the witches’ brew in Macbeth?

  7. They’re more fun (but much harder!) if you have reason to believe that they’re real self-references, like the ones you pointed out earlier. Of course the man reused the same sequences of words from time to time, after all.

    Both Tempest and Shrew use the same joke (“Are you this girl’s father?” “Well, her mother told me I was!”) but I wouldn’t call those a reference to each other.

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