Scott Newstok: Well, Shakespeare, He’s in the Alley
The author of “How to Think Like Shakespeare” on the talents that helped Bob Dylan and James Baldwin do just that.
* This piece was featured in Substack Reads, a weekly roundup of the best writing, ideas and art from the world of Substack. Hats off to Scott Newstok and TFP! (Except for you, Bob.)
By Scott Newstok
Many have chronicled the Shakespearean echoes across Dylan’s career, whether nodding to play titles (Tempest), characters (Ophelia in “Desolation Row”), phrases (“Murder Most Foul,” from Hamlet), or more general inspiration (“I’ve been trying for years to come up with songs that have the feeling of a Shakespearean drama”).
But as both a teacher of Shakespeare and a lifelong Dylan fan looking forward to The Philosophy of Modern Song, Dylan’s first book since his 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature, I remain most fascinated by his invocations of Shakespeare’s artistic process — championing the poet’s freedom to create from any source whatsoever.
In response to 2012 accusations of plagiarism, Dylan reminded an interviewer th…
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