How and why do you think Huxley uses Shakespeare's works in Brave New World?What do you think of the affect of the works in the context of Brave New World?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Much of what John has learned on the Reservation of the interplay of high emotions has been vicariously experienced in his readings of the plays of Shakespeare.  While he loves his mother, Linda is able to return very little feeling to him since she has been programmed to have no real emotion and only the most instinctive motherly feeling emerges in her.  In addition, because he is her child, John does not have friendships with younger people that would help him develop his expression of emotions. So, his knowledge of Shakespeare's plays provides John with the language and experience of emotion and thought.

Upon his arrival in the New World, John experiences certain feelings, but all he has to relate them to are his readings of Shakespeare's plays.  For example, when he first looks around and sees all the clean, prosperous environment, he likens himself to Miranda of Shakespeare's tempest, who also has no knowledge of other beings outside of her father.  John echoes the words of Miranda at her first sight of the men her father Prospero has brought to his island:

...O brave new world!

That has such people in't (5.1.119-120)

Upon seeing Lenina, John is immediately captivated, feeling the infatuation that compares to that of the love-struck Romeo:

The blood rushed up into the oung man's face...and was so much overcomethat he hadto turn away and pretend to be looking very hard at something on the other side of the square.

Lenina seems the perfect vision of womanhood to John at this point.  But, he is later disappointed as she does not compare to the fair Juliet.  When she takes him to the feelies, he watches the violence of emotion on the screen and can only liken it to Othello, in which many of Iago's speeches contain very explicit and degrading sexual language.  Like Othello, John feels rage after his experience.  John's experiences in the New World also parallel those of Othello as he shares with this character the violation of trust since Bernard betrays him.  Like Othello, John commits suicide as a result.  Unfortunately, having the emotions expressed only in the old, anachronistic world of Shakespeare, John cannot feel fulfilled in the emotionless New World.  Like the plays he has read, John's life, too, is a tragedy.

 

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In my opinion, Huxley uses Shakespeare because his works are the clearest examples of things that embody the difference between our society and that of the dystopia.

The dystopia does not value human emotion and the true human condition.  It has tried to create a world in which people are pretty much no longer human.  The people live their lives and do things humans do, but they do not feel the things humans feel.

Shakespeare is full of people feeling the range of human emotions.  This makes his work a good contrast to the society of the dystopia.

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