One of the rewards of literary study is the possession of a heritage of poetry and story which causes many names and phrases to echo with rich reverberations down the centuries.
—Sister Miriam Joseph, The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric
This is partly why I am endeavouring to read all the classics, though, as Sister Miriam Joseph points out, three sources in particular dominate our “heritage of poetry and story”: the Bible, classical literature, and Shakespeare. She recommends that the novice make use of a concordance of the Bible, a dictionary of classical literature, and a concordance of Shakespeare. I have a couple of NRSV Bible concordances but, now that I think about it, most literary allusions in English literature would be from the King James Version, so perhaps I should invest in something like this. I believe I have classical Greece and Rome covered with my new OCD, but a concordance of Shakespeare? I had no idea such a thing existed. How delightful! A quick search turns up only one edition in print, Bartlett’s Complete Concordance to Shakespeare. It’s a hefty volume (7 lbs!) with a hefty price tag. I’m a fool for reference books but $20 a pound is a bit much for me. Perhaps an out-of-print concordance will do the job just as well, and they have much more interesting titles, such as:
- A Concordance to Shakespeare: Suited to All the Editions, in Which the Distinguished and Parallel Passages in the Plays of That Justly Admired Writer Are Methodically Arranged. to Which Are Added Three Hundred Notes and Illustrations, Entirely New. (1787)
- AN INDEX TO THE REMARKABLE PASSAGES AND WORDS; Made Use of By SHAKSPEARE; Calculated to Point Out the Different Meanings to Which the Words are Applied. (1791)
- Complete Works of Shakespeare With Notes By Malone, Steevens, and Others Together With a Biography, Concordance of Familiar Passages, Index to Characters, and Glossary of Obsolete Terms.
Complete Works of Shakespeare – Includes Poems and Sonnets With Notes By Malone, Steevens and Others Together with a Biography, Glossary of Obsolete Terms and Concordance of Familiar Passages In Eight Volumes. (1887)
- A Compendium and Concordance of the Complete Works of Shakespeare: Also, an Index of Every Character in the Dramas and Where They Appear. (1889)
- A Complete Concordance Or Verbal Index to Words, Phrases and Passages in the Dramatic Works of Shakespeare: With a Supplement Concordance to the Poems. (1896)
Those dates make me wonder if there is a Shakespeare craze every hundred years or so. Perhaps the Oxford Shakespeare and it’s spinoffs, the Norton Shakespeare, and the Oxford Companion to Shakespeare, are just the latest manifestations of this publishing cycle. Long live Shakespeare!