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“Scraps, orts, and fragments”

Shakespearean Echoes in Virginia Woolf

Cristiano Ragni    Università degli Studi di Perugia, Italia    



Shakespeare is ubiquitous in Virginia Woolf’s works and there is hardly a piece of writing in which the playwright’s name is not mentioned. Along with other authors of the past, Shakespeare always represented an ideal benchmark for Woolf’s literary output, providing her with the necessary drive to keep on “searching”. This meant experimenting with new forms of writing that, in her personal experience, meant finding new reasons to keep on living. A lifelong search, this usually became more intense before and after the repeated periods of crisis that Woolf had to face: not only on a personal level, but also on a more general one, because of the historical crises her generation had to live through. It was in those moments that Woolf mostly turned to her deep knowledge of Shakespeare’s work. I will try to show how Shakespeare’s ‘presence’ is particularly crucial in Between the Acts, the novel she wrote at the outbreak of World War II. Woolf tried to reply to the general crisis provoked by the new conflict with a work that consciously evoked the historical-literary past of Great Britain and into which multiple references to the Bard’s oeuvre are weaved. Shakespearean echoes are “scraps, orts”, testifying to Woolf’s extreme attempt to contain the desegregating violence of the war. They represented, in other words, what kept – and still keeps – a community together: its history and culture.

Sept. 28, 2017
March 29, 2017
March 7, 2017

Keywords: Virginia WoolfWorld War IIShakespeareBetween the Acts

Copyright: © 2017 Cristiano Ragni. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.