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Ovid and Adaptation in Early Modern English Theatre$
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Lisa S. Starks

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781474430067

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474430067.001.0001

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“Truly, and very notably discharg’d”: The Metamorphosis of Pyramus and Thisbe and the Place of Appropriation on the Early Modern Stage

“Truly, and very notably discharg’d”: The Metamorphosis of Pyramus and Thisbe and the Place of Appropriation on the Early Modern Stage

Chapter:
(p.203) Chapter 11 “Truly, and very notably discharg’d”: The Metamorphosis of Pyramus and Thisbe and the Place of Appropriation on the Early Modern Stage
Source:
Ovid and Adaptation in Early Modern English Theatre
Author(s):

Louise Geddes

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474430067.003.0012

In the mid 1590s, Shakespeare began a trend when he appropriated Ovid’s tale of Pyramus and Thisbe in two different genres, the tragedy Romeo and Juliet and the comic performance by the rude mechanicals in A Midsummer Night’s Dream The latter was the more subversive act, transforming the source material into a satire on the amateurs’ unskillful remix of their text, by focusing on the asymmetry between the performers’ transformative ambition and their skills. This janus-faced use of Ovid marks a divergence of appropriative treatment that saw the tragic adaptations struggle to maintain popularity against the widespread enjoyment of Shakespeare’s “tragical mirth,” and implicates Shakespeare in debates about the place of fidelity in appropriation. Pyramus and Thisbe’s Ovidian devolution aligns Shakespeare’s appropriative work with current theories about rhizomatic adaptation, and recognizes the collaborative and transformative nature of remediation.

Keywords:   Ovid, Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Pyramus and Thisbe, appropriation, remediation

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