William Faulkner's Use of Shakespeare Essay

William Faulkner's Use of Shakespeare Essay

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William Faulkner's Use of Shakespeare


Throughout his career William Faulkner acknowledged the influence of many writers upon his work--Twain, Dreiser, Anderson, Keats, Dickens, Conrad, Balzac, Bergson, and Cervantes, to name only a few--but the one writer that he consistently mentioned as a constant and continuing influence was William Shakespeare. Though Faulkner’s claim as a fledgling writer in 1921 that “[he] could write a play like Hamlet if [he] wanted to” (FAB 330) may be dismissed as an act of youthful posturing, the statement serves to indicate that from the beginning Shakespeare was the standard by which Faulkner would judge his own creativity. In later years Faulkner frequently acknowledged Shakespeare as a major inspiration and influence, once noting, “I have a one-volume Shakespeare that I have just about worn out carrying around with me” (FIU 67). Faulkner’s recorded interviews and conversations contain references to a number of Shakespeare's works and characters, including Hamlet, Macbeth, Henry IV, Henry V, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet, the sonnets, Falstaff, Prince Hal, Lady Macbeth, Bottom, Ophelia, and Mercutio. In 1947 he told an Ole Miss English class that Shakespeare’s work provides “a casebook on mankind,” adding, “if a man has a great deal of talent he can use Shakespeare as a yardstick” (Webb and Green 134). In one of his last interviews shortly before his death in 1962, Faulkner said of all writers, “We yearn to be as good as Shakespeare” (LIG 276).

The parallels in the lives and careers of the two writers are remarkably striking. Both were born in provincial small towns but found their eventual success in metropolitan cities, Shakespeare in London and Faulkner in New York and...


... middle of paper ...


...n August: Faulkner's Structural Motifs." Master's thesis, Southeast Missouri State University, 1995.
Greenblatt, Stephen, and others, eds. The Norton Shakespeare. New York: W.W. Norton, 1997.
Gwynn, Frederick L., and Joseph L. Blotner, eds. Faulkner in the University: Class Conferences at the University of Virginia, 1957-1958. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1959. Cited as FIU.
Meriwether, James B., ed. Essays, Speeches, and Public Letters by William Faulkner. New York: Random House, 1965. Cited as ESPL.
--------, and Michael Milgate, eds. Lion in the Garden: Interviews with William Faulkner, 1926-1962. New York: Random House, 1968. Cited as LIG.
Rowse, A. L. William Shakespeare: A Biography. New York: Harper and Row, 1963.
Webb, James W., and A. Wigfall Green, eds. William Faulkner of Oxford. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1965.

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