William Jonson 's ' Small Latine And Lesse Greeke

1807 Words Oct 11th, 2016 8 Pages
One-third of Shakespeare’s oeuvre takes place in antiquity, and more still makes reference to the personages imagined in Greco-Roman mythology (Baumbach, 77). Upon even modest perusal of Shakespeare’s plays, one can find, notwithstanding poet laureate Ben Jonson’s imputation towards William’s “small Latine and lesse Greeke”, that Shakespeare had more than a trivial acquaintance with classical dramas and histories. Whether Shakespeare knew enough of Latin and Greek to inquire directly into the pieces or resorted rather to the translations made available within his time, or even, presuming the former, utilized his own translations of Ovid, Quintilian, Sappho, Plutarch, Horace, Virgil et al., remains moot. Still, the historicity of accounts generated by scholars or even those purported to have existed in the bard’s day quite often comes into question, and all that ever stands to analyze are Shakespeare’s works. We see in them a reference to myths such that they become something more than the objects contained therein: a mode of signification altogether. For Shakespeare, the myths are become the literary vehicle, a means to engage more intimately with the psyche of his characters. Especially in The Merchant of Venice, classical allusion unveils the underlying motives of characters - it is the way in which Portia can illustrate her wit and hunt of the suitors, the Prince of Morocco his failed conquest of Portia, Bassanio his successful procurement of Portia, and Jessica her…
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