Links between Montaigne and Shakespeare's King Lear

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  • Created by: bethg
  • Created on: 11-05-16 14:21

Montaigne Research

  • Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) was a French Renaissance writer who pioneered the form of writing known as the essay.

  • One of the few writers that historians can confirm as being an influence on Shakespeare thanks to his essay ‘On Cannibals’ which was used as a direct source for The Tempest.

  • The first man to translate his works into English was John Florio who had been a tutor to Shakespeare’s patron, the Earl of Southampton.

  • In 1580, when Shakespeare was an unknown 16-year-old with very dim prospects, Montaigne, then at the ripe age of 47, published the first two books of his essays

  • Renaissance gentlemen made a practice of writing down in what were called commonplace books interesting thoughts or felicitous turns of phrase that they encountered in the course of their reading.

  • Montaigne also believed that as physical contagion existed there was also a moral kind of contagion which could afflict people. This belief would have had a significant resonance among Shakespeare’s contemporaries as in the early years of the 1600s the playhouses were rife with plague.

  • Montaigne coolly notes, children in fact “have youth and strength in their hands, and consequently the breath and favour of the world, and do with mockery and contempt receive these churlish, fierce, and tyrannical countenances from a man that hath no lusty blood left him.”

  • Montaigne’s essay ‘Of Solitarinesse’ was a strong


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