networks of intertextuality in early modern drama

The WordWeb-IDEM database maps the dense network of quotations, cross-references and in-jokes that links hundreds of English plays from Shakespeare’s time. If a comedy or tragedy was a hit on the Elizabethan stage, names and phrases could go viral:

Thomas Kyd in 1588: "Hamlet, revenge!"
William Shakespeare's Hamlet in 1600: "O, vengeance!"
William Shakespeare in 1600: “What is this quintessence of dust?”
John Marston in 1603: “And here’s the very quintessence of ducks!”

You can now search or browse the WordWeb-IDEM database to explore such references. See what phrases early modern dramatists borrowed from each other and from other sources and find answers to questions like these:

Which one-liners were quoted most frequently?
Which books and authors were especially interactive?
How were quoted phrases adapted by writers who recycled them?
Apart from the usual suspects, who else says “sea of troubles”, “to be or not to be” or "my kingdom for a horse"?

Do you know of any such cross-references that are not on WordWeb?
Let us know
and we'll add your find to the database!

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.



Quoted phrases