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October 9, 2009 10:36 AM   Subscribe

I need help remembering the most famous Shakespeare references in modern literature.

Nabokov repeatedly compares Lolita to Miranda, Eliot speaks of his father's death by quoting Ariel in "The Wasteland." I don't need entire adaptations like this question asks for, or characters overtly discussing Shakespeare (like Stephan discussing Hamlet in Ulysses) just oblique or embedded references. For some reason my brain can only recall references from The Tempest.
posted by Viola to Media & Arts (39 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
"To Be Or Not To Be" gets used a whole hell of a lot...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:41 AM on October 9, 2009

Best answer: David Foster Wallace named his magnum opus after a line from Hamlet, and there are lots of other Hamlet resonances in Infinite Jest (dead, usurped fathers; ghosts; indecision; etc)
posted by COBRA! at 10:43 AM on October 9, 2009

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
posted by phelixshu at 10:50 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Terry Pratchett's Wyrd Sisters is basically a big Macbeth reference, with Hamlet references too.
posted by paultopia at 10:51 AM on October 9, 2009

Best answer: Cobra beat me to Infinite Jest, but Huxley's Brave New World is similarly loaded with Shakespeare, all the way from the title (from The Tempest, again) on down.

Also on the from the title on down department: Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury.
posted by rokusan at 10:55 AM on October 9, 2009

"Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."

from Macbeth.
posted by chicago2penn at 10:56 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." -- Henry VI, part 2

That one shows up all over the place. But not so much in fiction.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:56 AM on October 9, 2009

Best answer: Oh, and Steinbeck's The Winter of Discontent (named after and dominated by Richard III).
posted by rokusan at 10:56 AM on October 9, 2009

This is a standard homework question, so other people have already taken a stab at it.

There's also a very thorough book on the topic.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:59 AM on October 9, 2009

Agatha Christie, Taken at the Flood.
posted by MonkeyToes at 11:01 AM on October 9, 2009

Parting is such sweet sorrow, from Romeo and Juliet

Looking at this list reminds me of a comment my slightly-in-reverse student made when I used to teach high school English: "I don't see what's so great about Shakespeare, it's full of cliches."
posted by keener_sounds at 11:03 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I think I need to restate my question, it probably wasn't clear. I'm not looking for commonly referenced quotations, I'm looking for the modern texts that actually reference the plays. Sometimes these are direct quotes (like in Wasteland) and sometimes they're oblique allusions (like in Lolita, where they stay at the Miranda Hotel), which makes a google search with verbatim Shakespeare quotes unhelpful.
posted by Viola at 11:11 AM on October 9, 2009

I'm looking for the modern texts that actually reference the plays.

This is all in the Burt books.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:13 AM on October 9, 2009

Response by poster: I need help remembering the most famous Shakespeare references in modern literature.

Yeah, in retrospect, I definitely wasn't clear in my question. Sorry! Should phrased it something more like, "Looking for well-known modern texts that reference Shakespeare plays."
posted by Viola at 11:13 AM on October 9, 2009

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley = King Lear
posted by keener_sounds at 11:17 AM on October 9, 2009

Ah, gotcha.

Well, there was a teen movie a few years ago called Ten Things I Hate About You which was based on Taming Of The Shrew.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:36 AM on October 9, 2009

Best answer: The famous graphic novel series Sandman by Neil Gaiman is positively loaded with this. In fact, Shakespeare himself appears as a character, and his troupe performs Midsummer's for a group of fairies (many of whom are being portrayed in the show).
posted by Skot at 12:07 PM on October 9, 2009

Best answer: I think maybe some of these answers are a little off with respect to the question's specificity.

Reference and allusion are literary terms that usually, though not always, mean small-scale throwbacks. Adaptation is what qualifies re-makes. The question alludes (heh) to the Shakespeare adaptation thread; she doesn't want full-blown adaptations like Thousand Acres and Ten Things I Hate About You.

You use Ulysses as a no-no example, but it's rife with Hamlet allusions that aren't meta.

Pale Fire is really the book where Nabokov has a Shakespearian field day.

Adrienne Rich's poem "After Dark" largely centers around allusions to King Lear.

That's pretty much all I got; hope that helps.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:10 PM on October 9, 2009

Ummm ... Shakespeare in Love?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:18 PM on October 9, 2009

The little seen movie "O."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:19 PM on October 9, 2009

The little seen movie "O."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:19 PM on October 9

The question is: "I need help remembering the most famous Shakespeare references in modern literature." Movie adaptations of plays are not references, and they are not literature.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:23 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd like to point out that Shakespeare in Love not only goes "behind the scenes" of Romeo and Juliet, but also Twelfth Night, and several minor characters are, or are intended to be, real people, too, such as Christopher Marlowe, Philip Henslowe, Walter Raleigh and a don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-it John Webster.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:24 PM on October 9, 2009

Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead: an entire play (and fabulous film) about the off-stage lives of two minor characters from Hamlet.
posted by googly at 12:31 PM on October 9, 2009

Not literature, but would Se7en be in the right vein? I think one of the victims is forced to cut off a pound of flesh.
posted by hue at 12:43 PM on October 9, 2009

Response by poster: Movies aren't applicable. Infinite Jest, Ulysses and Pale Fire are exactly what I'm looking for: modern texts that allude, somewhat briefly, to Shakespeare, but their entire plots aren't modern adaptations. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is a great guess, but it's still too Hamlet-adaptation-y to help me out. I think poets like Dickinson and H.D. also reference Shakespeare, but of course I can't find specific examples. Sidhedevil, that book looks swell, but it's $300 and not at my local library.
posted by Viola at 12:44 PM on October 9, 2009

posted by magstheaxe at 12:45 PM on October 9, 2009

Whoops. Sorry, didn't see that you weren't looking for film references.

What's the Robert Frost poem? "Out, Out..."
posted by magstheaxe at 12:47 PM on October 9, 2009

Best answer: Oh! I know one! From The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock:

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use, 115
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

And here's "Out, out..." by Frost. The Skaespeare reference is just in the title, though.
posted by magstheaxe at 12:52 PM on October 9, 2009

in Dead Kennedy's "California Uber Alles"

Now it is 1984
Knock-knock at your front door
It's the suede/denim secret police
They have come for your uncool niece

Come quietly to the camp
You'd look nice as a drawstring lamp
Don't you worry, it's only a shower
For your clothes here's a pretty flower.

DIE on organic poison gas
Serpent's egg's already hatched
You will croak, you little clown
When you mess with President Brown
When you mess with President Brown

Reference to Julius Caesar Act 2 Scene 1:

"And therefore think him as a serpent's egg
Which, hatch'd, would, as his kind, grow mischievous,"
posted by Locobot at 12:57 PM on October 9, 2009

There are several novels titled All My Sins Remembered and this quote comes from Hamlet's speech ending with an address to Ophelia: "Nymph, in thy orisons be all my sins remembered."
posted by mattbucher at 12:58 PM on October 9, 2009

"What overwhelmed him is that instant was the admiration for the gesture with which she had thrown her clothes aside. With its grace and carelessness it seemed to annihilate a whole culture, a whole system of thought, as though Big Brother and the Party and the Thought Police could all be swept into nothingness by a single splendid movement of the arm. That too was a gesture belonging to the ancient time. Winston woke up with the word 'Shakespeare' on his lips."

-- "1984" by George Orwell.
posted by grumblebee at 1:14 PM on October 9, 2009

In Margaret Atwood's novel "Cat's Eye," there are three sisters named Miranda, Perdita and Cordelia.
posted by grumblebee at 1:18 PM on October 9, 2009

John Mortimer's Rumple stories are rife with Shakespeare quotes, and Rupole nicknames one of his colleagues (a female lawyer) Portia.
posted by grumblebee at 1:25 PM on October 9, 2009

Tom Stoppard wrote a play called "The Undiscovered Country." It's an adaptation of a play called "Das Weite Land" Arthur Schnitzler. Stoppard lifted his title from Hamlet's "To be or not to be" speech.
posted by grumblebee at 1:27 PM on October 9, 2009

"Now, Mrs Curdle was supposed, by those who were best informed on such points, to possess quite the London taste in matters relating to literature and the drama; and as to Mr Curdle, he had written a pamphlet of sixty-four pages, post octavo, on the character of the Nurse's deceased husband in Romeo and Juliet, with an inquiry whether he really had been a 'merry man' in his lifetime, or whether it was merely his widow's affectionate partiality that induced her so to report him. He had likewise proved, that by altering the received mode of punctuation, any one of Shakespeare's plays could be made quite different, and the sense completely changed; it is needless to say, therefore, that he was a great critic, and a very profound and most original thinker."

-- "The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nicholby" by Charles Dickens
posted by grumblebee at 1:44 PM on October 9, 2009

The epigraph to Borges' story the Aleph comes from Hamlet:

O God! I could be bound in a nutshell,
and count myself a king of infinite space
posted by minkll at 1:58 PM on October 9, 2009

Philip Roth's Exit Ghost takes its title from a stage direction that appears in three of Shakespeare's plays: Hamlet, Macbeth and Julius Caeser.
posted by Ljubljana at 2:10 PM on October 9, 2009

Sylvia Plath's "Ariel" and "Full Fathom Five"
Boris Paternak wrote a poem entitled "Hamlet"
posted by ofelia at 3:32 PM on October 9, 2009

Gertrude and Claudius, John Updike
Dead Fathers Club, Matt Haig
Something Rotten, Jasper Fforde
Hamlet II: Ophelia's Revenge, David Bergantino
Too Too Solid Flesh, Nick O'Donohoe
"If we were not perfectly convinced that Hamlet's Father died before the play began, there would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own ramparts, than there would be in any other middle-aged gentleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy spot-say Saint Paul's Churchyard for instance-literally to astonish his son's weak mind."
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

In The Halls Of Elsinore, Brad C. Hodson
Three Witches, Caroline B. Cooney
Gaudy Night, Dorothy Sayers
Under the Greenwood Tree, Thomas Hardy
There are More Things, Jorge Luis Borges
Time Out of Joint, Philip K. Dick
Mortal Coils. Aldous Huxley
Band of Brothers, Stephen Ambrose
The Dogs of War, Frederick Forsyth
There is a Tide, Agatha Christie
The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Kurt Vonnegut
Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett
The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck
Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
Richer Than All His Tribe by Nicholas Monsarrat
Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson
Inconstant Moon, by Larry Niven
This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart
Cakes and Ale by William Somerset Maugham

is that enough?
posted by edgeways at 5:05 PM on October 9, 2009

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