Shakespeare: The Remixer

It should be fairly well-known that Shakespeare, himself, was a remixer.  He took stories which has been passed on for centuries and turned them into plays.  Much of the reason we consider his plays archives, although they come from something else, is the way they have stayed intact for years.  Shakespeare’s use of language and iambic pentameter have created a standard which is still studied today.

In the Riverside Shakespeare Anthology, they explain that the most well-known piece of Shakespeare’s work, Romeo and Juliet, is very much a remix.  It came from a story, which came from a story, which came from a poem, which may (or may not) have come from a real life situation.

The same anthology explains Macbeth also has a rich history, similar to that of Romeo and Juliet.  The archive Shakespeare is believed to work from is Holinshed’s Chronicles (Macbeth). The character of Lady Macbeth is seemingly based upon Seneca.  It is believed that some of the changes in the play can be attributed to appeasing the king at the time.

Although this may seem apparent, Shakespeare’s histories are also remixed.  They come from what are believed to be true historical events, but Shakespeare adds his own spin to every situation, as he likely could not know the exact conversations that took place between the people featured as characters in his plays. Shakespeare became so famous for remixing histories that they are now considered a classification of his plays.

Knowing that Shakespeare was a remixer may help students grasp the idea of remix and also understand why Shakespeare is so remarkable.  With this in mind, I plan to make a portion of my website dedicated to explaining remixes which Shakespeare created.  This can act as another tool for students to use.

Shakespeare, William, G. Blakemore Evans, and J. J. M. Tobin. The Riverside Shakespeare. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. Print.