Characters who quote Shakespeare, either inadvertently or deliberately, range from the random quoter--as in Heyer's brief references--to Lucinda Benedict who quotes Shakespeare (among others) as her ONLY speech through three related novels by Kasey Michaels to the Shakespeare-obsessed father in Susan Carroll's The Lady Who Hated Shakespeare. The chronic Shakespeare-quoter appears to be equivalent to the author who uses Shakespearean epigrams, that is, the quotations become a kind of shorthand but can occasionally seem concordance driven.

Quoting the bard also often becomes a measure of a character's self-protectiveness, Shakespeare-as-distancing agent, protecting Victoria who quotes the great William when under stress in Julie Garwood's Prince Charming and Walter Renwick from The Lady Who Hated Shakespeare from their emotional problems. Lucinda Benedict of Kasey Michaels's alliterative trio of novels--The Tenacious Miss Tamerlane, The Playful Lady Penelope, and The Haunted Miss Hampshire--differs from Victoria and Renwick not only because she quotes from sources other than Shakespeare (under some pressure from a friend who cannot bear the slight to the immortal bard) but also because she speaks ENTIRELY in quotations, her every utterance an appropriation of the bard or some other masculine literary or historical authority. In the less thorough-going quoters, the references oscillate between being self-protective and self-revelatory; quoting Shakespeare can either protect a particular character's emotional distance or it can signal a rapprochement or an emotional alliance with another character--or sometimes both!

Retreating into Shakespearean language incorporates Shakespeare as an obstacle to the codes which writers like Krentz and Barlow have argued are the core of the romance's appeal:"Women enjoy telling. We value the exploration of emotion in verbal terms. We are not as interested in action as we are in depth of emotion. And we like emotion to be clear and authoritative, not vague or overly subtle the way it often seems to be in male discourse (28). They argue that the verbal acknowledgement of emotion is the goal; compelling the taciturn or blocked male figure to speak of his emotions is one measure of the romance heroine's success. Thus, verbal skill and intellectual clarity about emotional issues can signal a character's significance within the romance form. Not surprisingly the three figures I have mentioned as Shakespeare-quoters are secondary figures as well as characters who have a lot of trouble expressing their emotions clearly. However, paradoxically, two of these characters also function as enablers of the romantic union--the Shakespearean references ultimately serve the purpose of matchmaking. Both Lucinda Benedict of Michaels's novels and Walter Renick in The Lady Who Hated Shakespeare do as much to advance comic romantic union as to obstruct resolution with the endless quoting. Although Garwood's Victoria only occasionally quotes and serves very little function in the plot, Lucinda Benedict and Walter Renwick are both more intensely involved their quoting abilities and more deeply implicated in creating romantic union.

Indeed, the most interesting Shakespeare-quoters invoke his words as part of the building of both character and relationships. Even though Georgette Heyer's references to the bard are infrequent, they are meaningfully part of the verbal texture of characters who quote usually from a variety of sources including Shakespeare. In the particular cases of Venetia and The Unknown Ajax, the links to Shakespeare are complexly driven by character--Venetia's odd upbringing and bluestocking knowledge and Hugh Darracott's hidden education and upending of the Ajax appelation he gains for dullness. Some later writers, most notably Jean Ewing and Edith Layton, use their Shakespearean references also as only part of the layering effect involving several authors. In these cases, Shakespeare's texts help to establish not only an individual hero or heroine's depth of character, but also his or her suitability as the match to a comparably literate mate.

Go to Introduction References by Play  Return to Rewriting Shakespeare