Shakespeare's Treatment of the Source in Coriolanus

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Kim, Kwangho
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서울대학교 인문대학 영어영문학과
영학논집 7(1983): 49-62
In the Elizabethan Age, plays, "often put together by writers hired to revise and patch
the work of others, were scarcely regarded as literature" ,1l and playwrights had no need
to be original in the plots of their plays. Likewise, Shakespeare did not demonstrate his
originality in the invention of novel plots. He found the subject-matter of his plays in
various sources-familiar stories, historical chronicles, biographies, or plays written by his
predecessors. As a matter of fact, each of all his plays can be traced to at least one definite
source, with only one exception, Love's Labour's Lost, the plot of which is thought
to have been invented by the dramatist himself, though it contains many contemporary
topical allusions.
A comparison of anyone of Shakespeare's plays with its source is "a sound instinct and
a natural and fruitful approach"2J to the study of his dramaturgy. Certainly it may be one
of the most effective ways of understanding not only the play itself, but the essentials of
his unequalled dramatic art. Coriolanus is a good example of his resourcefulness in transforming
the lifeless dull story of the original into a higher artistic form.
Shakespeare found the source of Coriolanus chiefly in Plutarch's Parallel Lives, in which
the lives and careers of celebrated Greeks and Romans were described in pairs-e. g. Alexander and Caesar, Dion and Brutus, Demetrius and Antony, etc.-and comparisons between them were given.
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College of Humanities (인문대학)English Language and Literature (영어영문학과)영학논집(English Studies)영학논집(English Studies) No.07 (1983)
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