Stony Limits and Envious Walls: Metamorphosing Ovid in Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream
This paper examines the story of Pyramus and Thisbe, which entered the European literary tradition by way of the fourth book of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, as it informs Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The discussion of the manner in which Ovid’s tragic tale haunts these Shakespearean works involves a consideration of the specular relation existing between the two plays that, among other things, also helps to explain some of the apparently anomalous elements in each. Attention is given to the manner in which Shakespeare’s works reflect the influence not only of the Ovidian original but of the different versions of the tale elaborated by Chaucer and Golding, and in particular to the emblematic image of the wall which, variously developed by his predecessors, plays a crucial role in both of Shakespeare’s plays.
Keywords: Shakespeare; Ovid; Chaucer; Golding; Metamorphoses; Romeo and Juliet; A Midsummer Night’s Dream
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