How Original Was Shakespeare?


If Franssen is concerned with the variegated history of Shakespeare after his death, Shakespeare’s Originality attempts to untangle the knotty roots of the playwright’s contemporary sources, inspirations and even plagiarisms. ‘Most people interested in Shakespeare’, John Kerrigan observes, ‘have wondered about his originality. Is it true that his plays were adapted from other authors’ plays, poems, and romances? Are his best-known speeches really lifted out of Montaigne and Plutarch?’ More consequentially for our understanding of Shakespeare, Kerrigan asks: ‘Does it matter, any more than it does when a classic movie is based on a novel?’

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Patrick J. Murray — History Today

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Barbaric Beauty


What did Vikings look like? Is their representation in pop culture accurate?

How authentic is Vikings’ representation of Vikings, then? If we merely compare the characters who strut onscreen with the imagery imparted on us by the Icelandic sagas and the sparse Viking Age sources that supplement them, not bad at all. These finely attired TV Norsemen are, to a man, mikill ok sterkr, their bodies and faces tattooed and painted, their gazes penetrating and haunting, their hair and beards carefully kempt. But the point to drive home is that the question itself is ill-posed and ultimately unanswerable, because we would need to reorient our own mental set-up in order to be able to grasp the alien mindset to which descriptions like ‘very much eyed’, made sense.

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Oren Falk — History Today

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The long history of canine violence against minority groups


I never thought about dogs this way. Today’s needull throws light on some important history related to canine violence used against minority groups.

Yet examining the history of canine violence in European and Euro-American colonialism is not an easy task. Dogs do not write their own history and few have written it for them. Only in the past two decades or so have scholars in the field of animal studies aimed to uncover the historical experiences of creatures that hold no verbal or literary commonalities with humans. Given the close relationship between humans and dogs, historians can examine how human-canine relations are expressed through episodes of camaraderie, domination and violent subjugation.

Because of their propensity to be fiercely loyal, certain dogs have been bred and trained with the specific intention of racially subjugating those non-white populations that resisted imperial expansion. Conquistadors devastated indigenous communities with this method. Dogs sailed with Iberian colonists and were used to track, subdue and sometimes kill indigenous peoples.

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Tyler D. Perry — History Today

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