Two Brits Walk into a pub

Image result for trainspotting pub
Source: Trainspotting (1996):

Two young Southern English boys, THOMAS and EDWARD (20s), walk into a busy working man’s pub. The loud pub quietens as the pair walk in. The locals eye them up suspiciously.
Edward tugs on Thomas’s shirt. He gives him a nervous look but Thomas just gives him a bold smile back.

THOMAS Can I get two pints of Guinness please?
BARMAN Yeez goat any ayy-dee?
Thomas confidently slides out his driving license whilst Edward fumbles for his. The barman examines both before serving the pints.
The pair sit in the corner of the room. Edward looks around nervously whilst Thomas triumphantly gulps his stout.

EDWARD Thomas, I don’t think this is a good idea. Mother said that I should-
THOMAS Shut up Edward. For Christ’s sake. Your mother isn’t here, is she?
THOMAS We’re paying customers, alright. No one is going to cause us any harm. We’re supporting their economy.
A half-empty glass of lager slams down on their table, proceeded by a very drunk man, STEVEO (50s).
STEVEO De fook de yeez young English conts think yeez doing in ma tavern?
EDWARD Thomas.
THOMAS Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that.
STEVEO Yeez fookin’ foreign conts are askin’ for a skelp.
Steveo’s friend calls from behind him.
KEV (Laughing) Steveo here’s askin’ why yeez in Edina?
STEVEO Yeez wee sooks ah askin’ fer a wallop, Kev.
THOMAS Uhh we’ve come up early for the Edinburgh Fringe festival.
STEVEO Yeez bufties?
THOMAS I’m an aspiring director, but Edward, Eddie, he’s a writer and an actor. We’re actually students at the moment at Oxford. We’re uhh putting on a play here in a couple of weeks.
STEVEO Ahh cannae believe me fookin’ cluas. Yeez wee players.
Edward and Thomas look at each other in confusion.
STEVEO (CONT’D) What yeez puttin’ on?
THOMAS Uhh Macbeth. That’s why we’re up early. We’re trying to get some local inspiration to help our actors for their performances.
STEVEO Dee fook do ya need dat fer. Tee English ahh doin’ fooking Macbeth, Kev. Yeez are takin’ the piss aren’t yeez?
EDWARD No no. We’re not. We’re just passionate about theatre and want to learn more about this great country.
Thomas gives Edward a look as if to say ‘too much’.
STEVEO Fookin’ waste ahh teem. Yeez conts shoodn’taa be doin’ such immorality.
THOMAS How do you mean?
STEVEO Yee looky here laddy, ahh wiz always like, and me mam and her auld mam an’ aw wiz like, never go t’ da theatre cus cannae know goin’ ta corrupt ya meend n ya morals. What tee point n givin’ poppy te fookin’ actors. Da fook do tey do wiv their lives. Only conts look up ta actors cos te got nowt else on ter lives. Actors da same as criminals n dat they lie to ya face n expect fookin’ poppy for it n they’re fookin’ lazy at it man.
THOMAS I don’t know if lazy trickery is how I’d define actor. I mean many of them are professionally trained and-
STEVEO And te bampots ta go see theatre. ‘Ahh ooh te so good. Aw so good’. Ye fook. And fookin’ Shakespeare. Ahh cannae understand what te writs. Load a pish. And when he fookin’ says sumin’ comprehensible, it’s all about fookin’ swedges. His plays ah fookin’ radge man. When te killed te King cos his lassie say so, ya think he was meltit for writin’ sumin’ so mince.
THOMAS See, I would disagree.
You can see the panic in Edward’s eyes.
STEVEO Ye what?
THOMAS Actors, writers, and directors are skilled and talented, and extremely hard working. I mean, Shakespeare has taught generations after generations about how to live. How to express. How can you just ignore all of that?
STEVEO Te fook are yeez callin’ ignorant. Teez askin’ for a swedge. I’ll take yeez oot seed and fookin’ skep yeez.
Steveo staggers up. Kev sees what happens and jumps in.
KEV Ahh calm it Steveo. Tee laddies are causin’ nae danger. Go get aws ah pint. It’s yeez round anyway man.
Steveo eyes Thomas and Edward before staggering to the bar.
KEV (CONT’D) Sorry about him. He’s a good laddie n that. Just goes a bit radge and talks some keech after he’s got a bit steamin’. Gets ah bit a spondoolyitis. Ay’d da fookin’ sup up and get oota here whilst he’s gone walkaboots if ahh wa yeez.
EDWARD Thomas, we’re going.
THOMAS Yep. You’re right about that one Edward.
The pair hurry out of the pub.

Group: Louis Linsey, Amy Sandbach, Helena Eades, Helena Hussey, Ruairidh Watt

Archival document depicting a theatre debate

Archiver’s Note: 

This exchange was discovered in the archives of Dormition Cathedral, London, in 2019 and believed to have been performed during several sermons in the late 1590s. The author is unknown; however, it is likely that this exchange was written by the church heads in order to educate the population on the immoralities of the theatre and to dissuade them from attending. Despite this, they were not able to prevent dwindling church attendance and the dialogue was never performed again. 

Fool. What a glorious time to act upon the stage! Theatre doth grow in in popularity more and more each day. The rising men of about town are attending and it is attracting the attention of many a aristocrat. (Pollard, xii) The theatre has the power to change individuals just with words, that is some power that those actors hold and should not be ridiculed by the likes of you. The theatre has the power to enlighten and open minds as well as to teach. “What coward to see his countryman valiant would not be ashamed of his own cowardice?” (Heywood, 221). The plays can teach the proper manners expected of our nobles and our countrymen, set examples for thine own followers. 

Friar. Fool! How far thee have strayed from the arms of our Lord and saviour. Your blasphemous disregard towards our teachings, replaced with vile sins and vanities, has brought about thy own damnation! Tragedies encourage wrath, cruelty, incest, injury, murder either violent by sword, or voluntary by poison; the persons gods, goddesses, furies, fiends, kings, queens and mighty men!” “the ground work of comedies is love, cozenage, flattery, bawdy, sly conveyance of whoredom; the persons, cooks, queans, knaves, bawds, parasites, courtesans, lecherous old men, amourous young men.” (Gosson, 94). Thou must return to thy holy Father! 

FoolHow can thou call it a sin when your own Lord hath never done, “Neither Christ himself, nor any of his sanctified Apostles, in any of their sermons, acts, or documents, so much as named them, or upon any abusive occasion touched them.” (Heywood, 223). 

T’was your very own clergyman who hath engaged in this art. Many preachers have in fact written for the stage and have provided us with many moral lessons within them (Pollard, xvii). How can the likes of ye argue against the immorality of plays when you yourself hath written and acted for the masses. Even your Sunday sermons could be seen as a performance with the intent on teaching. Ye argue that we encourage the wrath and sins of mortals and that we perform “the work of the devil” (Gosson, 84), why not then create your own work of God to counteract our deceitful act? “Since God hath provided us of these pastimes, why may we not use them to his glory?” (Heywood, 224) 

The Fool appears in many plays from the Works of William Shakespeare. Vintage etching circa mid 19th century.

Friar. Plays may be used by the Lord to teach and to guide in the right hands, but these theaters are filled with the devil’s very own lies and slander! “The proof is evident, the consequent is necessary, that in stage plays for a boy to put on the attire, the gesture, the passions of a woman; for a mean person to take upon him the title of a prince, with counterfeit port and train; is by outward signs to show themselves otherwise than they are” (Gosson, 102). There are no morals to be found in the bawdiness of theatre! “Hail the horse whose mischief hath been discovered by the prophets of the Lord…damnable, because we profess Christ, and set up the doctrine of the devil.” (Gosson, 89) 

Fool. The theatre hath been used to perform the very truthful acts of mortals. “Plays hath taught the unlearned the knowledge of many famous histories” (Heywood, 241). The histories of our country hath been depicted on these very floors to inform and teach these good countrymen of their own past. The past itself hath believed our art to be one of taste. “Thus our antiquity we have brought from the Grecians in the time of Hercules; from the Macedonians in the age of Alexander; from the reigns of Romans long before Julius Caesar” (Heywood 246-247) 

Friar. Thou thinkst that in the hands of fools knowledge will be used for the betterment of all? Dost thou proclaim that thou knowst better than thy Lord? “The devil, not contented with the number he hath corrupted with reading Italian bawdry, because all cannot read, presenteth us comedies cut by the same pattern” (Gosson 90). What use is history, will it teach our youth to fear our God? Let the history rest in the past, the only thought tat is needed in the hands of peasants and fools is the fear of God! 

A depiction of Friar Lawrence from the Shakespeare’s famous play ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

Fool. Hark! The gates of hell have opened! And yet, I cannot repent this addiction to the sin the theatre! I shall spend the rest of my days in the arms of sloth and lust. But, hark a second time! There is water arising from every corner of the world! God has brought upon us a second flood! Jesus, save us! 

Friar. For shame! I pray for thee and thy sinful nature! God have mercy on thy soul, that you thee repent your Devil father. And I pray for this sheer crowd of a thousand sinners that flock to your feet, that they too repent and revoke this devil’s work! 


Omer, Ciara, Alfie D, Alfie P, Alice, Emma


Pollard, Tanya‘Introduction’ in Shakespeare’s theater: A sourcebook. (2003). Oxford: Blackwell. 

Gosson, Stephen, ‘Plays confuted in five acts’ (1582) in Shakespeare’s theater: A sourcebook. (2003). Oxford: Blackwell. 

Thomas Heywood, ‘An Apology for Actors’ (1612) in Shakespeare’s theater: A sourcebook. (2003). Oxford: Blackwell. 


Becky, Luke, Elli, Kelly, Sophia

A cosy tavern on the North bank of the river Thames. Bestfriends Edmond and Arthur are having a tankard of ale. 

Edmond Theakston: Hallo Arthur my man, you’re looking particularly fine today, Martha can’t make the theatre this afternoon and I was wondering if you would accompany me. 

Arthur Murray: Is this a joke? 

Edmond Theakston: No, I thought it would be a really nice Wednesday afternoon activity for us to do together! 

Arthur Murray: Our theatres and playhouses in London are as full of adultery as they were in Rome. I would rather eat a rat than attend that devil’s playhouse Edmond.

Edmond Theakston: Oh Arthur, surely what can sooner print the modesty in the souls of the wanton than by discovering unto them the monstrousness of their sin? 

Arthur Murray: Stage plays are the doctrine and invention of the devil!!! I will not be persuaded otherwise. You can not be taught morals through the words of the devil. 

Edmond Theakston: Cannot morals be taught through history plays of courage and shame? So bewitching a thing is lively and well spirited action, that is hath power to new mold the hearts of the spectators and fashion them to the shape of any noble and notable attempt. 

Arthur Murray: No Edmond, the theatre is an immoral industry! Draw your sword, we’re taking this outside.

Edmond Theakston: Now now Athur, stop this tomfoolery!! You sound straight out of one of those Shakespeare plays! 

Arthur Murray: Don’t align me with that pagan devil worshipper. I thought better of you. 

[Arthur draws sword]

Edmond Theakston: Woah! Lets just have another tankard and calm down. 

[Arthur replaces sword to its sheef]

Arthur Murray: I may have got a little ahead of myself but this theatre business just really grinds my cogs. 

Edmond Theakston: I understand you’re a Godly man but the Bible provides no clear orders against the theatre and were content to pass over them, as things tolerated and indifferent. 

Arthur Murray: You have a point there Eddy, but I’m not utterly convinced viewing a play is right for me, I would be more than content to read one of these Shakespeare plays you so highly commend, but to see it acted out in the flesh would overstep the mark. 

Edmond Theakston: One step at a time Arthur. Why don’t you read some first and then maybe we can try attending a play when you’ve gotten over this silly fear. 

[They hug and head out of the tavern]

gosson vs heywood

Theatricalist vs Anti-Theatricalist 

A Live debate between Stephen Gosson and Thomas Heywood, transcribed here for your enjoyment. 


Stage plays are not to be suffered in a Christian commonwealth (88). They are go against Christianity! 


 How can you prove they are unchristian? Neither Christ himself, nor any of his sanctified Apostles, in any of their sermons, acts, or documents, so much as named them, or upon any abusive occasion touched them (223). And as for the state of the commonwealth,  I never yet could read any history of any commonwealth which did not thrive and prosper whilst these public solemnities were held in adoration (224).


How can you say that the theatre has moral value!? The devil, forseeing the ruin of his kingdom , both invented these shows and inspired men with devices to set them out the better thereby to enlarge his dominion and pull us from God (89). The theatre draws people away from the Church, playing is one of those politic horns which our enemy dosseth against the gospel (91), abandoning sermons to watch baudy and lascivious performances. 


Plays do offer moral teachings. What coward to see his countryman valiant would not be ashamed of his own cowardice? (221). The theatre presents countless models of good behaviour in it’s representation of heroic characters such as in heroic Hector, Troilus and Caesar. It inspires people to be better citizens, more courageous and just. Even comedies have the power to make men see and shame at their faults (243) in their ridicule of the foolish and admiration of the wise and witty. 


Watching plays doesn’t inspire courage and action! It inspires laziness! We must be persuaded that their idle occupation, having no stout, so strong, so puissant, so mighty an enemy as the word of God (88). Acting is for those who don’t have the strength to do real work. Actors forsake their natural calling to play dress up, just because they vainly desire to walk gentlemanlike (110) instead of getting real, honest work. 

 Far from advocating strength, the theatre aims to turn people soft and effeminate. Indeed, these outward spectacles effeminate and soften the hearts of men (107-8). Everyone knows that the law of God very straightly forbids men to put on women’s garments (101). 


Actually, theatres were in the greatest opinions amongst the romans (223). I don’t think anyone would call them feminine or accuse them of a lack of industry. 

Moreover, you neglect to acknowledge that the theatre offers an education to the common man. Plays have…taught the unlearned the knowledge of many famous histories (241). Have you considered that most people can’t read? Going to the theatre is a way that common people can learn about their history and cultural heritage. Additionally, to go to the theatre is to learn the art of rhetoric which instructs a man to speak well, and with judgement (227). Clarity of speech and eloquence are good skills to have. 


To imitate others on stage is a blatant deception. God hath made us in his own likeness (88-89). To impersonate someone else is to defy God’s wisdom in creating us how we are. Where is the transparency in theatre? How do we know if the actors are speaking in character or in truth. It’s as sinful as lying to be an actor! It is to mimic the character of the devil to turn himself sometimes to an angel of light, to deceive us the sooner (95). 


I have come across many instances in which people have actually confessed to crimes and revealed truth because the theatre has inspired them to. Two women confessed to the murders of their husbands (245,246) after they were driven by guilt when watching a play. Even a Spanish invasion was foiled because the sound of an army on the stage scared them flee back to their boats believing it was a real army (245)

Finally, it is my strong belief that playing is an ornament to the city, which strangers of all nations report of in their countries (240). Our theatres put us on the map in Europe. They are something to be proud of, building our literary heritage and attracting the admiration of the world. 

Heywood, Thomas. An Apology for Actors (1612). p. 85-111

Gosson, Stephen. Plays Confuted in Five Actions (1582).p 213-247

Alex, Gabs, Patrick, Pauline, Zoe

Stop the presses! was shakespeare a fraud???

Issue #46 17/10/19

Welcome, dear readers, to Stop The Presses, a frightening exposé on Elizabethan celebrity culture which has somehow been successful enough to last 46 issues. In our last issue, we discussed which lead-and vinegar based makeup is most suitable for your complexion, and the secret betting method guaranteed to win you big money at cockfights. But today’s issue is rather special- today we will be discussing the bard himself, with the help of three of our budding new journalists. Our topic- just how authentic was Shakespeare’s writing? Our first writer, Skipp McFinnigan, arranged a meeting with academic heartthrob Janet Clare, and her findings were nothing short of scandalous…


“Nothing said that hasn’t been said before” Is a Latin tag that some paint the labeled “copycat” Elizabethan era and with it a scandal simmering round Shakespeare’s celebrity status. We managed to get insight on this notion during an interview with Janet Clare.  Janet stated that the debate of “good and bad imitation” or “acceptable or unacceptable” borrowing drew opportunity for writers to shoot ammo against their opponents through “Charges of slavish imitation, mere translation” or accusations of “borrowing”. Where, “good” Imitation was seen as positive and was linked to “high culture” (when in tune with the classics), “bad” imitation was branded as amateur or juvenile, due to it being borrowed. So comes the question of, was Shakespeare a “good” or “bad” writer/imitator? Did he simply borrow and recycle literary genius or innovate it creatively into his own textual art? . His early works such as the Taming of the Shrew and The Comedy of Errors could arguably be labeled as more “borrowed” than innovated however, a more creative turn could be seen taken much later in the Elizabethan era. This refined version of imitation can be seen when Shakespeare took a dip in courtly aesthetics in his midsummer night’s dream. Clare claims that there is a “generic intertextuality” between Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the works of earlier court dramatist John Lyly. Shakespeare experimented with the themes and styles seen in court comedies such as their “mediation of romance; courtly rhetoric and classical materials” which although, drew similar to John Lyly’s work it however differed in its accessibility to the public theatre, making it more popular with its audience. The comedic twist of romance and love in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream is heavily influenced by Lyly’s playful writing of myth and folklore. So is this enough to call out Shakespeare as unoriginal? Not necessarily. Plays may “share stories” however the way they are adapted change the way they are presented and performed. These changes can thus shift the way an audience responds to the performance in mental and emotional aspects. To add, Lyly’s dramaturgy was aimed to win royal favor, being set mostly in the “court world”. Shakespeare however mixes the “rustic and the courtly” together thus taking a diverse approach to imitating Lyly’s dramaturgy by intermingling “incompatible traditions”. To conclude, although similarities may be drawn between Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and John Lyle, it is important to point out the innovation of style, themes and structure that he implements to transform something exclusive into a more relatable performance that anyone could enjoy.

Thanks, Skipp. As Clare was getting up to leave, however, our second writer, Barry McCool pressed her even further, and scooped up this hot take:


Hamlet, arguably the most famous and loved of all Shakespeare’s plays, is still not something existing in its own place in the history of theatre. It, like all else, was part of a network of inheritance and influence, connected to different texts both before and after it. First of all, it’s important to remember that Hamlet was not a completely new, original idea invented in Shakespeare. There is a lost play, known as the Ur-Hamlet, that was performed in a Shoreditch theatre years before. This play is known to have had a character known as Hamlet, and a scene involving a ghost. However, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Ur-Hamlet is that it’s writing is attributed to Thomas Kyd. Kyd was later the author of popular revenge play The Spanish Tragedy, which is seen by many as a major influence on the version of Hamlet known to modern audiences. This is not to say that the ideas were co in Shakespeare’s plays were copied, though: some of Hamlet’s most defining features are actually in contrast and response to Kyd’s play. For example, as Janet Clare observes, Hamlet the man is defined by his interior and covert emotional struggle, whereas the Hieronimo of Kyd’s play is much more external in the way he shows his feeling. However, whether by drawing on or responding to Kyd’s revenge tragedy, it’s nonetheless clear that Shakespeare’s writing was informed by it. In fact, there is even a strong academic opinion that the first Quarto text of Hamlet, a version viewed as of lower quality and value, perhaps adapted from a performance by a third party, is actually Shakespeare’s first adaptation of a previously existing Hamlet. After all, a play of that name is listed in the repertory of a playhouse at which the bard’s company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, performed years before we know of Shakespeare’s Hamlet being performed. We can’t be sure of any of these assertions, but if true they imply that Shakespeare did not even write Hamlet from scratch, but rework it version by version from an existing play. This isn’t a criticism of Shakespeare, or an attempt to call him unoriginal, but a sign of the unusual way of theatre writing at the time: not one of originality but adaptation and reworking. And if anything is to confirm this, it is this: The Spanish Tragedy was eventually republished to renewed success in 1602, having been worked on and changed from the original. The most likely candidate identified by literary historians for the adapter? William Shakespeare.

Our journalists seemed to be of the belief that while Shakespeare’s plays drew inspiration from a variety of sources, their thematic individuality and writing process made the intertextuality more appropriate. But what about the complexity of Shakespeare’s characters? Our final journalist Pepper McSalt was on the case…


When comparing Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice to Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta , Hussein Ibish argues: ‘I think the reputation of the Jew of Malta as an anti-Semitic play rests on the absolutely immoral and stereotypically evil character of Barabas and the contrast with the Merchant of Venice and its more nuanced portrayal of Shylock who can be and now usually is portrayed sympathetically’. (The Atlantic). Whilst it is generally agreed amongst critics that Marlowe’s play served as a template for Shakespeare’s, it is in the subversion of Shakespeare’s ‘Barabas character’ where he reverses the expectation and makes the character more layered. While Shylock is presented as a dehumanised moneylender in some scenes, it could show to highlight the prejudice that exists within Shakespeare’s society:  “I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so the following; but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you” (MV 1.3.28-29). Shylock is aware of his discrimination and it inhibits him from forming genuine connections across the play. Barabas, however, is more Machiavellian, a traditional villain who ‘smiles to see how full his bags are crammed’. Rather than experiencing prejudice, Barabas seems more than happy to instigate it (“I would have brought confusion on you all, / Damned Christians, dogs, and Turkish infidels.”) outlining him as a champion of violent thought rather than an outsider. His indulgence in prejudiced language also inhibits sympathy from the audience, automatically making him less layered than the more complex Shylock. As Israel Davidson states in his study of the two, ‘One is the devil in the guise of a man, the other is a man with just enough of the devil in him to make him appear terrible’ (Shylock and Barabas: A study in Character). But Shylock only appears terrible because of how we’re supposed to view him. Audiences who had watched The Jew of Malta would automatically expect villainy from the ‘Barabas archetype’, but instead they would witness a more complex antagonist, who cares deeply for his daughter even after being manipulated. Compare this to Barabas, whose closest friend is his slave, literally regarded as a ‘second self’, and we can observe how Shakespeare’s replication of source material allowed him to subvert expectation and surprise audiences, in a subtle and artful way.

at 6:00pm last night, we managed to track the Bard himself down to the George Inn in London, where we confronted him on his fraudulent behaviour. He was very angry and gave us an evil glare

look at all that disdain

we asked, ‘Shakespeare, is it true you ripped off Lyly, Marlowe, Ovid, Jonson, and piggybacked off their hard-earned material, adding a few small details to make your work more thematically complex despite never acknowledging your source material and basking in the God status you acquired?’

And he said: ‘Hahaha no, you IDIOT! This is totally what we did at the time. I mean, what we’re doing right now. Shut up! Trust me it’s very very clever. In 350 years time someone will write an essay on how it’s actually art, and then they’ll see. People will think it’s really intelligent. They will be teaching modules on me, maybe, someday.’

Then Shakespeare did a playful wink and went back to his beer. What could it all mean?

Frankie, Rebecca, Felix, Ross, Joumana

Olivia, Sarah, Ally and Guy

From Hermia to Heath Ledger: Intertextuality in Shakespeare’s works 

Paragraph 1 – Intro

It’s no secret that Hollywood loves the Bard. Intertextual links and adaptation of the beloved Shakespeare’s plays have been fan favourites over the past few decades – She’s The Man (which takes influence from Twelfth Night), The Lion King (Hamlet) and finally who can forget the cult classic 10 Things I Hate About You (a 1999 re-imagining of Shakepeare’s The Taming of the Shrew). 

However, this idea of intertextuality and influence in drama is not a new concept, as Janet Clare rigorously explores in her book Stage Traffic. Clare discusses the idea of a “Shake-scene” (1), placing the playwright within a network of his contemporaries, linking “verbal echoes” not only to “localised connections or specific borrowings” (19), but textual interweaving connections. Clare categorises Shakespeare’s various modes of intertextuality in three veins; rivalry, re-shaping “malleable material” (19) and multiple interactivity. From this list, it is clear that William Shakespeare was a master of intertextuality, crafting a world in which his characters never truly end with the shutting of their playscript. There is somewhat of a dialogue between plays, and a creative use of intertextuality highlights this authorial method.

In this blog post, we will analyse the show business of Shakespeare’s intertextuality. How does the theatrical context add to our understanding of intertextuality? Does performance space matter? Who were Shakespeare’s sources of influence, both inspiration and intertextual-wise? 

Paragraph 2 – Set the scene of Shakespere’s competitors/contemporaries/sources/crazes for a particular genre at the time. Maybe summarise Clare’s main examples or extend hers for one of your own example(s). 

Shakespeare was not the only writer of his time experimenting with genre raising questions in regards to authenticity. For example, the relationship of John Lyly’s Galatea with Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is irrefutable. Pastoral elements and a forest setting are key to both narratives, as well as the idea of forbidden love (a woman falling in love with another woman resulting in a hetronormative outcome in Lyly’s play, a love potion resulting in Titania’s infatuation with the donkey-headed Bottom in Shakespare’s play). As Clare argues that Lyly’s comedies are notable for their ‘interweaving and juxtaposing of diverse dramatic material, notably the combination of mythological, supernatural, and courtly elements’. This is evident in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Shakespeare incorporates stories and themes from Greek mythology, whilst employing supernatural elements to a plot centred around love and marriage. 

The two contemporaries are both responsible for their intertwining of ‘four narrative lines’ and a shift from ‘local’ to ‘mythological’. The writers’ emphasis on external space reinforces the anxieties of their audiences towards the supernatural.

Paragraph 3 – What are some shared themes? Does the performance space matter?

Do other writers tend to specialise in one genre, or do they seem to be generalists like Shakespeare? 

While Shakespeare did seem to frequently borrow themes, ideas and even plot points from his contemporaries it could be suggested that all the writers of the time were borrowing from the current events playing out around them. Similarities abound between Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta and Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice written roughly 10 years later. But both come out of what Clare describes as ‘a climate of anti-semitism’ partially stoked by the alleged treason of a royal Jewish physician supposedly ‘having assented to take the Queen’s life by poisoning, upon a reward promised to him of 50,000 crowns’. The physician was charged and executed on little tangible evidence. This created an audience in London for plays that vilified Jews and consequently Marlowe and Shakespeare both supplied them. 

Paragraph 4 – Conclusion

Intertextuality was bred through the educational institutions in place at the time, in which Shakspeare was writing. The humanist idea in place was that a student must first learn from the ‘past masters’ who have preceded them. Some critics have been accused of making almost arbitrary selections when attempting to identify intertextuality, due to the arguable limitless scope of examples of intertextuality amongst texts within the period. However, Janet Clare argues that we do Shakespeare an effective disservice by simply viewing his plays in relation to others written previously. She believes that we must branch out, and remember that he is one part of an enormous network of plays and playwrights. Although he may have been influenced in some ways, she believes that to be of secondary relevance. 

Works Cited 
Clare, Janet. Shakespeare’s Stage Traffic: Imitation, Borrowing and Competition in Renaissance Theatre.  Cambridge UP, 2014

Shakespeare and his contemporaries

In regards to Shakespeare’s collaboration there are two key strands which can be focused on. Firstly is Shakespeare’s immediate and direct collaborator, The Chamberlain’s Men acting company which consists of 8-12 senior members and beneath these 2-4 apprentice boys. Not only does the acting troupe possess a financial hold over performances through shares but their role itself, by interpreting Shakespeare’s written word in their performances is open to be viewed as collaborative.

Beyond this though is the social network of playwrights and authors writing both at the same time as Shakespeare but also in the past. Some of Shakespeare’s main competitors and potentially collaborators included Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson and John Lyly.

Clare references how “Shakespeare’s plays are not separable from other plays in circulation” (Clare, 18), going on to suggest that writings should be viewed “on a circularity rather than linearity” spectrum as they can influence and affect one another at any point in time (18). Not only is this a concept supported by Seneca’s bee theory, which suggests within our works people should “sift whatever we have gathered from a varied course of reading” and apply it but can also be seen through both Shakespeare’s works and his competitors alike (Seneca 277, 278, 279). 

There is a distinction between intertextuality and influence here though as Shakespeare responds with intertextuality while the example of his competitor is influenced. 

Shakespeare, for example, responds to John Lyly’s Galatea by adopting its formula of a “non-naturalistic comed[y], with […] mythological and human characters”  within A Midsummer Nights Dream (123). From their shared woodland setting to their inclusion of Gods within their plots there are clear parallels which can be drawn between the two texts, demonstrating one text’s shaping by another. Alternatively though texts can instead influence one another, with Shakespeare in this different instance acting as a source of inspiration for writers as John Webster includes Shakespeare in his preface to The White Devil 1612 printed by Nicholas Okes for Thomas Archer. Webster regards that  “lastly (without wrong last to be named) the right happy and copious industry of M. Shake-speare, M. Decker,& M. Heywood, wishing what I write may be read by their light:” (Webster, Folger Shakespeare Library), demonstrating Shakespeare’s influence and his role as a source of inspiration but not his work being used intertextually. That is not to suggest that these are the only examples of this though as influence and intertextuality in a broad range of instances.  

It appears that the key writers featured in Clare’s essays were potentially more prone to specialising in a specific genre – Marlowe focused a lot on tragedy, whilst Lyly and Jonson wrote mostly comedy. 


Clare, Janet. Shakespeare’s Stage Traffic: Imitation, Borrowing and Competition in Renaissance Theatre (CUP, 2014) pp. 18

Seneca the younger, Epistles vol 2, transl. Gummere (Loeb: 1920) pp. 277-279

Webster, John. “The White Devil: John Webster refers to Shakespeare by name in his dedication (1612).” Folger Shakespeare Library, Shakespeare Documented, May 25th 2017, Accessed 15 Oct. 2019

Abi Dickson, Ellie Simmonite, Soso Ayika, Sophie Hamilton, Raveena Mehta, Leanne Francis

Did shakespeare have a cheat sheet?

We all know that Shakespeare’s plays thrilled the crowds, but can we give him the sole credit for this?

It’s always a shame when you find out that your idol is a fake and with a quick examination Clare’s ideals we will soon discover whether this really is the case…

His Contemporaries and their influence…

It is not unfair to say that Shakespeare was one of many playwrights creating content in the late 1500s and early 1600s, and that there are many similarities in his plays, with his contemporaries. This is something he knowingly points out in having Polonius list the various genres of the age, in Hamlet. In fact, Clare points out a number of these similariteis in her chapter – as seen with the links to Lyly and Marlowe (144). No matter what there genre there always seems to be a link here or a similarity there with Shakespeare. But does this matter when it comes to our enjoyment of his art? Yes, there does seem to be some structural templates that Shakespeare adheres, which are inline with the line of argument Clare concerning intertextuality. Her approach uses the Taming of the Shrew and The Comedy of Errors as examples of common stock comedies, both of which a great plays – the fact that they have layers of intertextually does removes Shakespeare’s originality as a playwright but places them deeper within the genre.

His Business…

Furthermore, Clare points out that Shakespeare was “writing for actors” which makes some claim that Shakespeare was not forming the characters from his imagination (114), but from both the stock characters of the period – the clown, the hero etc – and from the actual men in his company. How can we see this as a negative, is this not just a clever business plan which has allowed for us as a modern day audience to continue to enjoy his theatre? The layman on the street would have heard of Shakespeare, but would not have many of his contemporaries. Furthermore, the fact is that playwrights’ needed licensing from the state to be able to perform, which enabled censorship and limited Shakespeare’s creative freedom yet he still managed to appear on top proves that this use of intertextuality to refine your art into its most accessible/ enjoyable/profitable form is not only a natural part of the ‘artist’, but a necessary one too.

Clare’s insight into how Shakespeare worked is one that truly helps us understand him not only as a linguistic genius, but also as a savvy businessman also. Thus showing that intertextuality makes Shakespeare more endearing, not less…

Helena, Helena, Amy, Louis and Ruairidh

The Suavest Suitors of Southbank

It wasn’t just Shakespeare running about Southbank, throwing play scripts at every theatre available. No, there was far more competition and collaboration going on than you may have thought. As Janet Clare points out, ‘Shakespearean stage traffic… is marked by a critical and creative engagement” with other writers. Let’s meet some of them now: 

As we may have a formula for comedy, drama, and tragedy today, Shakespeare also encountered and was influenced by works which were well received by audiences. After all, why wouldn’t you want to write a successful play? Follow the steps laid out by writers such as Lyly to construct your comedy and you’re almost guaranteed success. 

This could explain why so many comedies started popping up around the same time: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, Gallathea, Volpone. The intertexuality of plays suggests a wider process of collaboration between writers and transformation of contemporary works and opens up a chance to analyse plays to highlight their allusions and relationships with other writing of the time.

Here’s a quote from Lyly to explain intertextuality:

‘Traffic and travel hath woven the nature of all nations into ours, and made this land like arras, full of device, which was broadcloth, full of workmanship. Time hath confounded our minds, our minds the matter…If we present a mingle-mangle, our fault is to be excused, because the whole world is become a hodgepodge’

The fanciful comedies of love that Lyly wrote for boy actors were the archetype for an english mode of comedy designed for a court audience. Lyly offered a model for comedy that was flexible and useful when Shakespeare’s play and ties with court were becoming stronger.

Through playtexts we can witness the inclusion of pastoral and mythology, a refined euphuistic style, displays of wit, godly and mortal love and chastity. These themes formed an example/blueprint for Shakespeare and later comedy plays especially. It could be said that Shakespeare in fact elevated Lyly’s dramaturgy to mould it into a more commercially successful enterprise, by featuring popular superstitions and royal entertainments.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream gives weight to this as the play was written for the company under the patronage of the Queen’s cousin. The greater likelihood of this play being performed to an aristocratic audience sees the play conform to a courtly aesthetic , another shared theme among these texts. The influence of performance space, and the audiences who filled this space, is a clear reason to include in the play the very people whom you wish to impress. What a bunch of brown-nosers.