Intertextuality and authorship in the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, Shakespeare and the Sonneteers.

Essay by banessaUniversity, Bachelor'sA, April 2004

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Medieval authors were not impressed by originality the way we are nowadays. Since the value of a poem was proved by its author's skills, they focused on the art of writing. Or rewriting, which meant studying and performing profound changes in a previous text in order to emphasise 'social' factors, the personal intentions of the author (entertaining, edifying, advising) and their own sense of literary aesthetics.

Sometimes intertextuality becomes original itself. It is astonishing how medieval authors contributed greatly to the evolution of language and literature with their re-reading of classic and contemporary texts. Intertextuality is revealed as a tool and an inspirational source and not, as it may appear at a first sight, as an obstacle to creativity.

For instance, Geoffrey Chaucer's work has proved to be original and peculiar although it is based on a miscellany of literary models and traditions. The sphere of influence of Chaucer while writing The Canterbury Tales included Bocaccio's Decameron, Dante's Divine Comedy, Petrarch's Canzonere and John Gower's Confessio Amantis.

But whilst Bocaccio does not give much importance to frame, one of Chaucer's greatest and most particular abilities lies in the creation of characters. Chaucer's main interest, and quite a modern one, is on portraying different human types.

Chaucer chooses sources that fit with his purposes, using intertextuality to achieve a personal creative goal. The Wife of Baths's Tale is really appropriate to her character. Drawn from a popular story -already written by Gower in his Confessio Amantis, and later to become The Wedding of Sir Gawen and the Dame of Ragnell (in a manuscript written circa 1450)- the Tale looks for an answer to the question 'What do women most desire?'.

In the prologue to the tale, Chaucer develops some of his most shiny and colourful narrative that's containing great examples...