Abstract

This article examines the way in which Julius Caesar and other related plays by Shakespeare helped to closely shape both the themes and ideological structure in Victor Hugo's Cromwell. Traditional approaches to the Shakespeare-Hugo conjunction have limited their analysis to the two critical texts by Hugo, the Preface to Cromwell and his book William Shakespeare. These approaches tend to be vague and ingenuous, as they commonly take at face value whatever Hugo had to say about his plays, without verifying whether Shakespeare is actually or not a determinant influence in his dramatic oeuvre. By exploring textual parallelisms between Shakespeare's plays and Cromwell, this article aims to lay down a firmer textual basis for this important comparative site. The analysis is moreover conducted within a speculative frame that accords to the category of revolution a decisive role in Hugo's poetics. A logic of resurrectionary iteration and uncanny causality is held to govern the process of literary appropriation by means of which a prominent exponent of Romantic freedom reactivates Shakespearean transgression in order to deploy an English historical drama of usurpation, revolution and tyrannicide. Recent work on Julius Caesar by Richard Wilson and other critics lends support to my claims.

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