What is the importance of Shakespeare in Fahrenheit 451?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Shakespearean themes are evident in the novel in subtle ways. There is an unseen power (government controlling the city); brother betrays brother in hiding books (Mildred informs on Montag); a jester offers commentary (the White Clown, symbolizing the meaningless emotion of television); an old person offers predictions and pronouncements (Faber, explaining the state of the world); characters suffer from madness (Montag has fits of delirium and rage from his conflicting emotions). One of the most important references comes at the end, when Montag confronts Beatty for the last time:

"Speech away[, Beatty said.] What'll it be this time? Why don't you belch Shakespeare at me, you fumbling snob? 'There is no terror, Cassius, in your threats, for I am arm'd so strong in honesty that they pass by me as an idle wind, which I respect not!' How's that?"
(Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Google Books)

The quote is from Julius Caesar, where Brutus explains to Cassius that his threats are meaningless because he, Brutus, is armed with honesty; even if he is killed, people will take up his cause and avenge him. Beatty believes in his cause, that the government should control the life of every individual, so he claims to have no fear of death. Montag obliges.


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