John the Savage and the Bard of Stratford. Shakespeare's Influence on John the Savage in Huxley's "Brave New World"

Term Paper 2013 23 Pages

English Language and Literature Studies - Literature


List of Contents


1. Shakespeare

2. Elizabethan Age

3. Shakespeare’s works
a) The Tempest
b) Othello
c) Romeo and Juliet

4. Aldous Huxley - Brave New World

5. John the Savage

6. Examination of the Book

7. Conclusion

I. Works Cited

II. Illustrations


As Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) was unable to pursue his chosen career as a scientist and could not fight in World War II due to a disease that caused him to be almost blind, he turned to writing and throughout his career published numerous caricatures, essays, sketches, and four novels. (Jalic Inc., 2000) His dystopian novel Brave New World was published in 1932. It represented his most successful novel and it may be said that “[a]llusions of The Tempest and other Shakespearean works make Brave New World one of the most complex and significant, as well as best known, works of twentieth century fiction.” (Powell, 1991, P. ii)

That Huxley took Miranda’s words in Shakespeare’s comedy The Tempest in order to form a title for his own book Brave New World is not a secret anymore. However, to some it could be a surprising fact that Huxley did not only use Miranda’s words, but statements of 16 different Shakespearean plays in total. Also, Huxley did not divide the quotations among his characters – he gave all of them to one single character: John.

In this seminar paper, Aldous Huxley’s character John the Savage is examined for Shakespearean influence. In the final part of the paper, answers are found to how and why John the Savage quotes Shakespearean plays. In order to provide a sufficient base for the examination of the book, first, there has to be taken a look at Shakespeare himself and the time he lived in. After searching the Elizabethan Age for its ideals and norms, three of the Shakespearean plays are looked at closer: Othello, The Tempest and Romeo and Juliet, as these are thought to have the biggest influence on John. Furthermore, a short overview of Aldous Huxley himself and the book Brave New World is given and followed by a characterization of the Savage.

1. Shakespeare

Ill. 1: William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564 in [1] Stratford-on-Avon, Warwickshire, England. Due to his knowledge of Latin and Classical Greek, William is supposed to have attended grammar school in his childhood years. After being educated at a free school, he did not go on to university schooling. On November 28, 1582, William married Anne Hathaway who gave birth to his three children Susanna, Hamnet and Judith. Unfortunately, After Shakespeare had disappeared for a long time, he “arrived in London around 1588 and began to establish himself as an actor and playwright.” (J. M. Pressley and the Shakespeare Resource Center, Shakespeare's Biography, 1997) The Bard was very successful and his works allowed him to live happily and retire in comfort. William supposedly died on his birthday in 1616 and left his remaining property and money to his family.

In his time, Shakespeare was the most popular playwright of London. As centuries have passed, his genius eclipses all others of his age; Jonson, Marlowe, Kyd, Greene, Dekker, Heywood—none approach the craft or the humanity of character that marks the Bard's work. He took the art of dramatic verse and honed it to perfection. He created the most vivid characters of the Elizabethan stage. His usage of language, both lofty and low, shows a remarkable wit and subtlety. Most importantly, his themes are so universal that they transcend generations to stir the imaginations of audiences everywhere to this day. (J. M. Pressley and the Shakespeare Resource Center, Shakespeare's Works, 1997)

2. Elizabethan Age

As already said, Shakespeare lived during the [2] Elizabethan Age, a “remarkable period of English history[…] [and] a time of relative political stability” (Midwest) During Elizabeth I’s reign, London became a commercial and cultural center. A milestone in England’s history was laid as certain fields of life were highly supported by the sovereign. (Midwest)

Elizabeth I supported exploration and seafaring, this can be seen in her actions: after the defeat of the Spanish Armada, Elizabeth backed and knighted the first person to circumnavigate the globe, Sir Francis Drake. Her majesty also supported Sir Walter Raleigh's exploration of the New World financially, what eventually brought new wealth to her country.

Also the field of arts like the theater was very important to the Queen. Playwrights like Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare were active during her reign and thanks to her, for the first time professional theaters were built in England. But not only performances of plays were supported by Elizabeth; during her rule also literature like Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and Sir Philip Sidney’s Defence of Poesie was written.

During Queen Elizabeth I’s reign religion was central to society, thus, attendance at the Church of England was mandatory and not showing up at church service was punished with fines. Even though the Church of England was the established church, it was not a crime to be Roman Catholic. However, Roman Catholic Masses were forbidden under Elizabeth I. Her policy allowed freedom of belief as long as the law was not flouted nor sedition encouraged.

Education was another field encouraged by the Queen; therefore, boys were educated strictly at school in order to be “literate members of society” (Midwest). Not only Latin grammar and vocabulary were an important part of a day at school, but also reading poetry and prose by Ovid, Martial and Catullus. Girls were excluded from school unless they belonged to noble families. If so, they were mostly educated in areas like “chastity and the skills of housewifery”. (Midwest). Also music and dancing were part of their education.

As seen by the example of education, at this time women

were subservient to men. They were dependent on their male relatives to support them. They were used to forge alliances with other […] families through arranged marriages[…] [and then to produce children]. There was little dispute over such arrangements as Elizabethan woman were raised to believe that they were inferior to men and that men knew better[…]. (Elizabethan Women)

As already said, during Elizabeth I’s reign marriages were frequently arranged in order to bring prestige or wealth to the family. In the case of marriage, young men were treated equally to women – couples often met for the first time on their wedding day. Regardless of their standing in society, people had to get married and disobedience to this rule was seen as a crime against their religion. (Elizabethan Women)

However, not only disobedience was a crime, but also adultery, being unfaithful and having sexual intercourse with anybody else than one’s permanent married partner, was a crime and severely punished. The dunking stool was used to torture women accused of adultery: the accused would be placed on the torture device and dunked under water until pronounced dead. (Different Kinds of Elizabethan Era Torture)

3. Shakespeare’s works

As William Shakespeare was born in the Elizabethan Age, he was also born internalizing the traditions of this period. When writing he, thus, incorporated them in his works and, therefore, norms, customs and values of the Elizabethan Age can be found in Shakespearean literature. The most important ones are: exploration and seafaring, a high valued religious belief, the subordinate position of women, obligation of (arranged) marriage and contempt for adultery. Three of Shakespeare’s works in which all of these factors - plus the topic of love - can be found are The Tempest, Othello and Romeo and Juliet.

a) The Tempest

The Tempest was written in 1611. [3] (Cummings, 2008, P. 262) It is Shakespeare’s sole original play and believed to be his final one. (Meckier, 1971, P. 131, Gill, 1998, P. 47) Just as the name indicates, it deals with a storm that is the cause for the main action. The ship carrying the King of Naples Alonso, his son Ferdinand, Alonso’s brother Sebastian, Antonio, Gonzalo, the butler Stephano and the jester Trincul is wrecked by the tempest which was initiated by Prospero, Miranda’s father, who lives with her on an island. He once was the Duke of Milan until his brother Antonio together with Alonso seized his position. Her father and Miranda were kidnapped and left to die on a raft at sea. The only reason they survived was Gonzalo, who left them supplies and Prospero’s magic books. After the ship’s passengers arrive safely on the island due to Ariel, Prospero’s familiar spirit and magical agent, Ferdinand is separated from the others who are made believe he died. Just as her father planned it, Miranda and Ferdinand fall in love as soon as they see each other and finally get engaged. Ferdinand is the only man she has ever seen except for Prospero himself and his servant Caliban. In the meantime, Ariel obeys Prospero’s orders and tries to pit the group around King Alonso against each other. After Caliban makes friends with the butler Stephano and the juster Trinculo, Ariel also manipulates them and they plan on killing Prospero; however, they are driven away magically. Ariel then brings Alonso, Antonio and Sebastian before Prospero who confronts them with their treachery, but forgives them. He reveals the engagement of Ferdinand and his daughter, who is stunned by the sight of so many men. The group plans to return to Italy the day after. Finally, Ariel is set free and after Prospero is given back his dukedom he will retire to Milan.


[1] (J. M. Pressley and the Shakespeare Resource Center, 1997, Mabillard, 1999, Andriz, 1997)

[2] (Midwest, Durant Durant, 1978, S. 128-138)

[3] (The Tempest)


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
537 KB
Catalog Number
John Brave New World Huxley Shakespeare Indian Baby Bard Stratford Romeo und Julia Othello The Tempest Distopia Reservation




Title: John the Savage and the Bard of Stratford. Shakespeare's Influence on John the Savage in Huxley's "Brave New World"