'Alas, poor YORICK!': Quoting Shakespeare in the mid-eighteenth-century novel

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Shakespeare is so widely quoted in the eighteenth-century novel that the practice seems almost innocuous. Closer examination of his quotation by the novel's characters, however, reveals a tension between this polite convention and its potentially dangerous association with the pretense of the stage. This paper will argue that Shakespeare's multiple availability to the eighteenth-century public — via the stage, adaptations, gentlemanly editions, cheaper texts, and anthologies — renders his quotation an ambiguous act, capable of representing simultaneously a stagy self-dramatization and a benign, readerly admiration. Looking at some of the ways in which novelists such as Richardson, Fielding, and Sterne have their characters variously maximize or minimize the theatricality of their quotations, the paper will show how they creatively exploit Shakespeare's complex status at this historical juncture to create subtle shades of characterization.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)NA
JournalBorrowers and Lenders: The Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • Shakespeare
  • eighteenth century
  • novel
  • prose fiction
  • reception
  • theatricality
  • performance
  • theatre
  • quotation
  • Samuel Richardson
  • Henry Fielding
  • Laurence Sterne


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