Readers of older multi-volume editions of Shakespeare, such as the Arden (which has now almost completed its third series and has already announced a fourth), will remember that a substantial section of the introduction was always devoted to sources, understood as previous works to which Shakespeare was indebted for details of plot and characterization, and for verbal borrowings. A glance at more recent volumes will reveal that such details are now dispersed among other material and that editors have become reluctant to write about sources in this way. The high-water mark of the old tradition was Geoffrey Bullough’s Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, published in eight volumes between 1957 and 1975 and still a standard reference work. Bullough carefully distinguished between “source,” “probable source,” “possible source,” and...

 
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