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Borrowed authority, satirized genre: Appropriations of Shakespeare in Charlotte Smith's poetry and novels

Joy Marie Currie, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This study examines the form and function of Charlotte Smith's allusions to the plays of Shakespeare in her poetry and novels. Reading Smith alongside the playwright foregrounds her comedy, irony, interpretive ability, and representations of sensibility, while adding to our understanding of Shakespeare's importance to writers of the Romantic period. ^ Smith crosses genres in her poetry when incorporating references to Shakespeare and his characters in ways similar to what G. Gabriella Starr observes in eighteenth-century novels when they absorb the lyric. Borrowing Shakespeare's dramatic prose and verse, Smith expresses the emotions of others as well as her own, and assumes the authority to write as a woman on such topics as lost love, sorrow, politics, and natural history in her sonnets, The Emigrants, Beachy Head, and other poems. ^ While using the popular conventions of romance and Gothic literature, Smith appropriates from Shakespeare in her novels to develop her protagonists and satirize her society and individual behaviors and attitudes, beginning with her first novel, Emmeline. In later novels, Smith adds the satire of romance and Gothic conventions, while knowing that she must still write within them. Using Anne K. Mellor's definition of Romantic irony, I argue that Smith's works contain both skepticism toward her satiric targets, and enthusiasm for such things as sensibility and liberal social and political ideas. In the novels whose plots are situated during the French Revolution, Desmond and The Banished Man, Smith continues to develop sentimental scenes and to satirize characters, while introducing political commentary. However, these novels contain little generic satire, since Smith treats her subject more seriously. At the height of her comedic powers, Smith self-reflexively parodies the romance genre and its characters by giving her protagonists romance characteristics and ways of viewing the world. In doing so, especially in The Old Manor House and The Young Philosopher, she demonstrates the inadequacy of such a fictional vision. ^

Subject Area

Literature, English

Recommended Citation

Currie, Joy Marie, "Borrowed authority, satirized genre: Appropriations of Shakespeare in Charlotte Smith's poetry and novels" (2006). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3208107.