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Rewriting Shakespeare: Thomas Otway's Venice Preserv'd and Edward Young's The Revenge
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Italics used in title. From a modem perspective, the plays of Shakespeare are considered by many (particularly scholars) to be sacred-untouchable. What modem scholars seem to prize above all else is a "reliable" or "authentic" text-one that is as close as possible to Shakespeare's original. Most productions tend to adhere rather closely to what scholars have decided is the text most nearly resembling Shakespeare's. Such was not the case, however, in the Restoration and the eighteenth century. Dramatists of these periods found Shakespeare's work to be a valuable resource to be used as they saw fit, albeit in different ways and for different reasons. During the Restoration, dramatists tended to take from Shakespeare what they found appealing or necessary and to use those borrowings as they saw fit in order to write plays they considered to be their own. Restoration dramatists seemed primarily interested in Shakespeare's work as a collection of building blocks upon which they could build their own plays. Early eighteenth-century dramatists were more concerned with making Shakespeare's plays fit into a fairly rigidly defined theoretical structure-one based largely upon Thomas Rymer's neoclassic theories. The adaptations of this period tended to keep the plays largely intact with changes only where necessary in order for the play to conform to the dramatic necessities of their time. This paper will deal with two adaptations of Shakespeare's Othello-one from the Restoration and one from the early eighteenth century. Thomas Otway's Venice Preserv'd, first performed in 1682, is an example of the approach taken by most Restoration adapters of Shakespeare. Otway took from Shakespeare that which he wanted to use and discarded the rest. Edward Young's The Revenge, first performed in 1721, is very much a piece with other eighteenth-century adaptations of Shakespeare in that Young made changes only where necessary while leaving the play largely intact. Young removed or altered those elements in Othello that Thomas Rymer felt were so objectionable. This paper, then, attempts to demonstrate how each of these playwrights approached Shakespeare and how their adaptations reflect the dramatic concerns of their respective times.
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Lovan, Gary Eugene (1996). Rewriting Shakespeare: Thomas Otway's Venice Preserv'd and Edward Young's The Revenge. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from
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