To Sleep Perchance, To Dream: Shakespeare's Use Of Dream and Sleep Motifs To Create The Gothic Reality.
Although Shakespeare's contribution to the Gothic novel was acknowledged by Horace Walpole in the preface to the Second Edition of "The Castle of Otranto," "shelter[ing] my own daring under the cannon of the brightest genius in the country" (Walpole 13), the extent to which the Gothic sensibility informs so many of Shakespeare's plays has only recently been conceded by many mainstream scholars. This is hardly surprising considering Gothic fiction's entrance onto the literary stage in mid eighteenth century England, which was dominated by the Reformation and poised to embrace the Romantic movement. However, Jerrold Hogle points out in his essay "Afterward: The 'grounds' of the Shakespeare-Gothic relationship" found in "Gothic Shakespeare's," "We do not realize how thoroughly pre-Gothic Shakespeare is, in other words, until we look back through the Gothic to his most similar motifs and tendencies" (202). In this paper I will analyze Shakespeare's use of two similar motifs associated with the Gothic genre, dreams and sleep, in several of his plays in hope of showing how thoroughly grounded the relationship between Shakespeare and Gothic fiction truly is. .
According to The Oxford English Dictionary, a motif is defined as "A (usually recurrent) feature of a composition, esp. a distinctive or salient one; the structural principle or dominant idea of a work; an object or group of objects forming a distinct element of a design; any small design or symbol". William Freedman, in "The Literary Motif: A Definition and Evaluation," in Essentials of the Theory of Fiction, elaborates on this definition "[A motif] is generally -that is, it can be seen to carry a meaning beyond the one immediately apparent; it represents on the verbal level something characteristic of the structure of the work, the events, the characters, the emotional effects, or the moral or cognitive content.