What is the significance of Holinshed's Chronicles in relation to Shakespeare's plays?

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linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shakespeare used Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande as the starting point for his history plays. He leaned particularly heavily on Holinshed in writing Macbeth. In his Chronicles, Holinshed wrote about King Duffe's murder and told of Macbeth and "the weird sisters." In an appendix to the Oxford edition of Henry V, Gary Taylor notes that Shakespeare followed Holinshed so closely that [some of] the lines in Henry V can be accurately described as a verse paraphrase of the chronicle." Shakespeare also used Holinshed's work as the basis for his plays King Lear and Cymbeline.

Shakespeare was not the only writer to use Holinshed as a source. Christopher Marlowe and Edmund Spenser also found inspiration in the Chronicles.

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