An Eighteenth-Century Genre
Scholars of Shakespearean appropriation tend to take the bard as their point of departure, assuming that rewritings reference the Shakespearean original; intertextual citations, however, often are varied in their range of allusion. This study of eighteenth-century Hamlet parodies uses the HyperHamlet database to examine a large corpus of parodies of the "To be or not to be" soliloquy. If we allow rewritings of Hamlet's soliloquy to transcend their status as samples of parasitic hackwork by reading them as a corpus, there emerges a pattern of recurrent features that makes them look like a genre. Shakespeare parodies make it possible to posit a process by which adaptations of a famous text become recognizable as tokens of a readily available pattern, with no particular reference to the Shakespearean original.
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