In honor of the Bard’s birth/death day on April 23 , we are celebrating Shakespeare week on the Desi Writers’ Lounge Blog. Watch this space for some more posts about this literary giant on Thursday and Saturday.
Shakespeare contributed hundreds of words and phrases to the English Language. In an essay on The Millions, Chloe Benjamin chronicled how authors named their books and of course, many turned to Shakespeare for that perfect turn of phrase. Here we list five of the best ones and how they connect to the plots of the novels.
1. WHO: Taken at the Flood by Agatha Christie
WHERE: “There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.”- Brutus, Julius Caesar
WHAT: The Cloades have always depended on Uncle Gordon and his fortune. In postwar England money is a little hard to come by…now if only Uncle Gordon had not died and left his entire wealth to his young widow and her brother. And for that matter who is she? How did she get to marry the millionaire? Enter Hercule Poirot, the Belgian detective with the “little grey cells.” This is a classic Christie with all the trademarks; huge family, a tyrannical patriarch and a whodunit enthralling enough to keep you up all night.
2. WHO: On Such a Full Sea by Chang Rae-Lee
WHERE: On such a full sea are we now afloat.
And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”- Brutus, Julius Caesar
WHAT: Two for Brutus! Dude may have been a murderer but he sure could spin those lines. From the same speech as above, comes another title for a novel that takes place in a dystopian America, where urban cities have been repurposed into labor colonies and populated with descendants from an environmentally ravaged provincial China. In this world, Fan, a fish-tank driver leaves her settlement to go “on such a full sea,” to find the man she loves.
3. WHO: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
WHERE: “How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is!
O brave new world,
That has such people in it!”- Miranda, The Tempest
WHAT: Huxley was obviously enamored with Shakespeare as the entire novel is peppered with references or characters reading the Bard. Brave New World is a nightmare vision of the future, where humans are incubated in labs with every class performing the tasks it was made for, where every feeling is drowned with repeated highs of the drug, soma and where being an individual is considered a waste of time. It is interesting that Huxley’s title can go both ways, Bernard Marx, the protagonist’s surprise at the ways of the old world and John, “the Savage’s” surprise at the creation of this new artificial one.
4. WHO: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
WHERE: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”- Cassius, Julius Caesar
WHAT: Hey, even YA can have titles inspired from Shakespeare. Hazel Grace Lancaster is a cancer-ridden 16-year-old with an affinity for deeply philosophical books and America’s Next Top Model. Her mother is worried that she spends too much time alone so she sends her to group therapy where she meets the hunky Augustus Waters who woos her with such lines like “It would be a pleasure to have my heart broken by you.” And before you’re like eww John Green, let me direct you to his literature videos which cover some fantastic analysis on Hamlet, Jane Eyre and many others.
5. WHO: We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
WHERE: “We are not ourselves,
When nature, being oppressed, commands the mind
WHAT: We Are Not Ourselves is an aptly chosen title for a wife learning to take nurse a husband who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. And Eileen and Ed are soulmates, having been through every trial and hardship in trying to secure a slice of the American Dream in the 1950s and 1960s. “Eileen understands how the American Dream works: You leave as little as possible to chance. You save your money, educate your children, and take every opportunity that presents itself,” writes Lisa Peet in her review of the book. Anyone who has ever been a caretaker for a parent or a spouse will relate to this novel and then remember that the title is from a play about an old king who is losing his mind and his kingdom.