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“Keep it Shakespeare, stupid”
Posted: 20 November 2017 04:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Syntinen Laulu - 19 November 2017 08:28 AM

Shakespeare’s description of Cleopatra’s barge is definitely a close cribbing of North’s Plutarch, there’s no denying that.

Isn’t there? I mean, Plutarch is a historical source, considered in Shakespeare’s time as authoritative: using available historical sources for a play about historical people and events is surely not cribbing. (If it were, every movie or TV show that has Good Queen Bess giving her Tilbury Speech would be ‘cribbing’!) Shakespeare took the information given in the North translation, combined it with embellishments of his own and put them into blank verse: that’s not cribbing, in my book.

It’s the wording of the two passages that are the issue. Shakespeare copies North’s words fairly closely. It’s not just that he’s repeating the historical details—which would be fine in any context or era—he’s repeating the words, not verbatim, but certainly closer than many of the others who’ve been tripped up for plagiarism in recent days. A counterexample is Macbeth, the plot and many historical details of which are taken from Holinshed, but he doesn’t copy the words. That’s a case of using a historical source that would pass modern muster.

I agree that calling the passage from A&C “plagiarism” is anachronistic, as what Shakespeare did was perfectly ordinary and expected for his era, but were a modern playwright to do it, then it would be.

And the claims that Shakespeare’s adaptations like R&J are “plagiarism” are utter nonsense.

As for the Tilbury Speech, re-enacting a historical speech by having an actor recite the words isn’t plagiarism, as the attribution is built into the context. That’s a different beast altogether.

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Posted: 20 November 2017 10:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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I doubt that Shakespeare would lose any court case in our time as a plagiarist.

He might not have lost, but he would have been sued, and his reputation would have been tarnished.

http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20090621124054133

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Posted: 20 November 2017 04:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Well, anyone can sue for just about anything. It’s also likely that any such suit would not survive a motion to dismiss (in which the worst case facts for the defendant are assumed). In the case of Holinshed, that’s a history, and merely repeating facts is not a violation of copyright. Also, the story being a centuries-old tale, meaning it would be in the public domain, would weigh heavily in Shakespeare’s favor. As for the others, things like an outline of a subplot are so tenuous that that they would not survive. Since such frivolous lawsuits are commonplace, I doubt his professional reputation would suffer. As long as he put butts in the seats, the moguls of the entertainment industry would forgive him. (Not to mention that the later Shakespeare would have been one of said moguls, and from such a commanding position few would dare to sue him for fear that he would destroy their reputations.)

But of course it remains a silly question, along the lines of what if Eleanor Roosevelt could fly? Or what if Napoleon had a B-52 at the battle of Waterloo?

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Posted: 22 November 2017 06:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Heard the phrase “sea change” used on a news channel this morning.  It was used to describe the number of women opening up and telling their stories about the sexual harassment they had experienced in their lives from various men. I didn’t even know for sure how to spell it since, as far as I know, I have never read it. It is used rather often on news shows.

So, I checked The Big List. It says it is a Shakespeare original, though not used in the same sense that we use it today. I just thought that was interesting enough to add to this thread.

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