Brush up your Shakespeare (1)!
Georgette Heyer did not need any encouragement to ‘brush up’ her Shakespeare or ‘start quoting him now’. In her novels she does quote Shakespeare frequently. What is interesting is that she rarely, if ever, notes the source of the quotation. She admitted that her own writing and her comedy owed a great deal to Shakespeare.
In the 1944 novel, ‘Friday’s Child’ the childlike heroine, Hero, reveals the Shakespearean origins of her unusual name. Fresh from the school-room, Hero informs her young buck of a husband, Antony, Lord Sherringham, that his name, is also derived from Shakespeare.
She goes on to shock Sherry’s decidedly unbookish friend, Ferdy (Ferdinand), by bringing his name in the conversation:
“You’re out of Shakespeare too,” said Hero, helping herself liberally from a dish of green peas.
“I am?” Ferdy exclaimed, much struck.
“Yes, in the Tempest, I think”
“Well, if that don’t beat all!” Ferdy said, looking around at his friends.
Her knowledge of Shakespeare raises the horrible possibility in Ferdy’s mind that Sherry’s young bride of convenience may be a bluestocking, a comment which draws a vigorous defence from both her new husband and his other friend, Gil. Even greater than his anxiety that Lady Sheringham might be bookish, however, is the prospect of what her comments may signal about the night’s entertainment:
A fresh bogey at once raised its head, and he demanded in accents of extreme foreboding, whether the evening’s entertainment was to consist of Shakespeare. Upon being reassured, he was able to relax again and to continue eating his dinner in tolerable composure.
The Shakesperian references end there, but the damage to Hero’s reputation as the story unfolds has echoes in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. When, later in the book, Sherry fears he has lost Hero, he does finally learn to value her, which reflects the Friar’s prediction in Shakespeare’s play.
In ‘Cotillion’ it is the rakish Jack Westruther who demonstrates his knowledge of the bard (Brush up your Shakespeare and the women you will wow?):
A nod sufficed for the Chevalier, but when Olivia held out her hand he took it and held it, saying laughingly, “‘Most radiant, exquisite and unmatchable beauty,'” can I persuade you to drive out with me?”
Miss Charing, had she been present, would undoubtedly have been able to have supplied Olivia with the context of these mock-heroics; Olivia by far less well-read, was cast into adorable confusion.
Within the story, Jack Westruther’s comment remains his private joke, although Kitty would certainly have been able to explain the reference to Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’. However, GH does not stop the flow of the story to explain the reference. The real purpose of the comment is perhaps to highlight the limited knowledge of Olivia in comparison to Kitty’s greater understanding.
There are other references to Shakespeare, by far the most extensive of which are in ‘Venetia’ (some of which are quite risque!) and ‘The Unknown Ajax’. Posts about these to follow.