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Chapter 4 - Wilde imaginings

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 December 2015

Paul Franssen
Affiliation:
Universiteit Utrecht, The Netherlands
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Summary

Whereas the nineteenth century worshipped Shakespeare, towards 1900 his image became tarnished, also in fiction. Oscar Wilde carefully broached the question of Shakespeare’s sexual orientation in a story about his supposed infatuation with a boy actor. Made innocuous by replacing the boy actor by a stage-struck girl dressed up as a boy, this topic became a popular template for romantic plots about Shakespeare. Besides, Wilde opened up Shakespeare’s sex life, as the source of his inspiration, as a subject for later authors, including James Joyce. Likewise, George Bernard Shaw raised the issue of Shakespeare’s class consciousness, which gave rise to representations of Shakespeare as a snob, a sycophant, or a capitalist exploiter. Finally, the idea that the Dark Lady of the sonnets had been non-Caucasian led to fictions in which Shakespeare is blamed either for having an interracial affair to begin with, or for exploiting her in a misogynous and racist way. The chapter also traces the way in which Wilde’s use of a modern frame story was imitated by some later authors to soften their criticism of Shakespeare, by foregrounding the tendency of modern critics to project their own concerns onto Shakespeare’s works and life.
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Shakespeare's Literary Lives
The Author as Character in Fiction and Film
, pp. 108 - 168
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2016

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  • Wilde imaginings
  • Paul Franssen, Universiteit Utrecht, The Netherlands
  • Book: Shakespeare's Literary Lives
  • Online publication: 18 December 2015
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316410851.005
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  • Wilde imaginings
  • Paul Franssen, Universiteit Utrecht, The Netherlands
  • Book: Shakespeare's Literary Lives
  • Online publication: 18 December 2015
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316410851.005
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Wilde imaginings
  • Paul Franssen, Universiteit Utrecht, The Netherlands
  • Book: Shakespeare's Literary Lives
  • Online publication: 18 December 2015
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316410851.005
Available formats
×