Shakespeare Influenced By Current Events And Fairy Tales?

I am a very big fan of fairy tales and stories, in general.  But my favorites are the plays.  Shakespeare’s plays.

List of titles of works based on Shakespearean...
List of titles of works based on Shakespearean phrases (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For years, I wondered how to introduce my young daughter to Shakespeare and when should I take her to a “real” play.  I found the answer while browsing through the children’s section of our local library.  It comes in a book dedicated to explaining Shakespeare’s many influences while writing seven of his beloved plays.

The book is called: Shakespeare’s storybook – folk tales that inspired the Bard- and is written by Patrick Ryan with illustrations by James Mayhew.

It covers the following Shakespearean plays:

  • The taming of the shrew
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • The merchant of Venice
  • As you like it
  • Hamlet
  • King Lear
  • The winter’s tale

It surprised me to find out that some of the possible influences in Shakespeare’s plays are fairy tales, the events of his days and his family life.  For example, Shakespeare wrote about fathers and daughters because he was a father of two daughters: Susanna and Judith who were old enough to contemplate marriage and leaving the parental home.

One of my favorite fairy tale is known by several names “More than Salt”, “As Much as Salt” or “Cap-O-Rushes”.  In this story, a king asks his three daughters how much they love him.  The youngest answer:

“More than Salt” and is banished from the court to fend for herself in the wild.  Years later, her father is invited to her wedding and is served food without salt.  That is when the king realizes his mistake and they live happily ever after.

The same fairy tale and a wealthy Londoner of the time, whose daughters tried to take control of his money by proving his insanity, set the stage for “King Lear”.

Then, I don’t really have to worry because I have been reading fairy tales to my daughter for many years.  We just graduated from fairy tales to the “Tales from Shakespeare” by Charles Lamb.  And watched a recording of the “Taming of the shrew” from the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

She was very quiet during the whole play.  Then, she went to the shelves to look for more plays.

I am looking forward to many, more lovely evenings of sharing and reading.


2 thoughts on “Shakespeare Influenced By Current Events And Fairy Tales?

  1. Very nice. My grandma use to tell us similar story like More than salt. It was called “Sarea in bucate” by Petre Ispirescu ( in romanian). It is strange how different culture has the same fairy tales.

  2. That is too funny. I grew up with the stories collected by Petre Ispirescu. I was born and raised in Romania. Well…isn’t the world small? Thank you for reminding me of the times I spent with my grandparents.

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