Thursday, May 25, 2017

Dorothy L. Sayers and William J. Shakespeare

Sayers, Dorothy L. Have His Carcase. New York: HarperPaperbacks, 1993.
———. The Five Red Herrings. New York: HarperPaperbacks, 1993.

I've read and re-read a lot of Dorothy L. Sayers, from Whose Body? to Busman's Honeymoon, from her translation of The Divine Comedy (and its magnificent notes) to The Mind of the Maker and back again. And I've listened to all the Lord Peter Wimsey detective novels and stories (primarily as read by the magisterial Sir Ian Carmichael) innumerable times.

In the mysteries, the characters—and, yes, the author—integrate quotes and allusions from a wide range of authors . . . most notably (for me, at least), Shakespeare.

The quotes from and allusions to Shakespeare are as thick as autumn leaves in Vallombrosa (all right—that frequent allusion in Sayers is actually to Milton); they're so thick that they could easily be the subject of a Master's thesis—or even a doctoral dissertation. 

On a few occasions, we get a lengthier engagement with Shakespeare. In Have his Carcase, for example, Wimsey interviews some theatrical agents—and it leads to a conversation on interpretations of Richard III:


Later, this seemingly-tangential conversation relates to the mystery (there's a character who has a slightly-hunched back).

More often, the characters—conceivably inebriated on the heady wine of literature—integrate phrases into their own speech. Here, Wimsey starts with Hamlet and ends with Othello when a disturbing revelation comes upon him:



In the following exchange, Harriet Vane, who is ably assisting Lord Peter to investigate the murder or suicide of a man whose body she herself found on the beach, notes that Wimsey is prone to such quotations in moments of excitement:


As a final favorite example (for now), here's a moment from The Five Red Herrings in which one of the suspects of the murder of Campell starts to reveal his true (or is it true?) whereabouts during the time of the murder and why he didn't tell Constable Duncan about them at once:


Sayers' novels are remarkable enough, but the Shakespeare really gilds refined gold, paints the lily, and shakes a dash of Chanel No. 5 on the violet. 

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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
All material original to this blog is copyrighted: Copyright 2008-2016 (and into perpetuity thereafter) by Keith Jones.

The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

—The Tempest