Brideshead Revisited

by Evelyn Waugh

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What literary allusions can we find in the novel Brideshead Revisited?

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Evelyn Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited is filled with literary allusions from many different eras, authors, and texts. These allusions add depth and interest to the story and form a network of literature beneath the main story that readers can enjoy discovering and interpreting. Let's look at a few of the allusions.

Allusions to Shakespeare are common. Waugh refers to Henry IV, King Lear, and Macbeth throughout the novel. Playwright John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi also gets a mention, as does Bernard Shaw. Poets turn up as well. T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land receives an allusion, as do Tennyson, Robert Browning, and French poet Arthur Rimbaud. Writers as diverse as Jane Austen, Lewis Carroll, and Marcel Proust turn up in this novel, as do G. K. Chesterton (with his detective Father Brown) and Anton Chekhov.

Waugh does not leave out mythological references, including some to Penelope (Odysseus's wife), Narcissus, King Arthur, and even Aladdin. Biblical allusions, too, turn up everywhere. Waugh refers to Sodom and Gomorrah, for instance, as well as Mary and Joseph, Gethsemane, and the Book of Ecclesiastes ("Vanity of vanities").

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