networks of intertextuality in early modern drama

The WordWeb/IDEM database maps intertextuality in early modern drama by linking thousands of extracts from English Renaissance plays which share popular "lexias" such as phrases, names or plot elements.

The London theatre scene around 1600 was very competitive and interactive, and we can trace rivalry as well as collaboration in quoted phrases. Shakespeare's "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse" appears in at least ten other plays after Richard III . These recyclings include "a boat, a boat" and "a fool, a fool". Hamlet's philosophical "quintessence of dust" was satirized as "quintessence of ducks" by John Marston. Marston's own elaborate language was so striking that a character based on him is given an emetic in a comedy by Ben Jonson and starts vomiting obscure words! Other favourites are "a sea of troubles" (36 versions), the idea that Nero killed his mother or the infamous "bed trick", which involves substituting a friend for an unwilling bride on her wedding night.
Users can search and browse the WordWeb-IDEM corpus for such recycled elements, but also for authors, plays and features such as date or genre.

The WordWeb-IDEM Project is generously funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and built by the DHLab at the University of Basel. In the current alpha version, searches are slower than they will eventually be. Thank you for your patience and feedback!







Lexias (quoted phrases)