The WordWeb-IDEM database maps a rich network of quotations, cross references and in-jokes that links hundreds of English Renaissance plays. The theatre scene of Shakespeare’s London demonstrates that “all minds quote”. Hamlet’s cry for vengeance is borrowed from an older play by Thomas Kyd and his metaphor "a sea of troubles'' was used in Greek tragedy and medieval sermons. And if a play became a hit on the Elizabethan stage, names and phrases went viral. Three years after Hamlet’s premiere, John Marston got a laugh out of Hamlet’s philosophical view of man as “quintessence of dust” by making a character say “quintessence of ducks”! In turn, Marston's own language was so striking that Ben Jonson ridiculed it in a character who is given an emetic and starts vomiting obscure words.
This intertextuality can be now explored online. On WordWeb/IDEM, you can follow the life of catchphrases like “a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse”, see which books and authors were especially interactive, or observe how quoted phrases were adapted in quotation.
WordWeb is a web which links texts, names, phrases and ideas, and IDEM stands for Intertextuality in Drama of the Early Modern Period. In Latin, “idem” means “the same”: popular phrases like “to be or not to be” are the same in hundreds of texts.
Visit the project's webpage to try for yourself!