“Scraps, orts, and fragments”
Shakespearean Echoes in Virginia Woolf
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.
Keywords: Virginia Woolf. Shakespeare. World War II. Between the Acts.
Language: enSubmitted: March 7, 2017