Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 26 (1995) Published by The George Eliot Fellowship, http://georgeeliot.org/
Virginia Woolf's comment, 'Literature is no one's private ground; literature is common ground', is a reminder in this age of intertextuality that writers have always lived off one another. Shakespeare himself was no exception. Marianne Novy's interest begins, however, with response rather than replication, and especially with the reasons why women novelists are drawn to Shakespeare. Unlike Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, the authors of The Madwoman in the Attic (1979), who portray male writers as essentially alienating to women, Novy shows how women who feel marginalized respond to Shakespeare the outsider, mourning his 'outcast state'; how women's need to 'perform', to be flexible and versatile, draws them to Shakespeare the actor; above all, how their innate compassion and tolerance guide them towards Shakespeare the 'artist of sympathy' and his wide-ranging identification with his characters. She finds his attractions particularly evident in the nineteenth century but increasingly challenged in the twentieth.