July 17, 2024

Shakespeare’s Content Sources

Content Sources - A Content Marketing Lesson from ShakespeareShakespeare’s Content Sources

Content Marketing Lesson from Shakespeare


Shakespeare wrote 38 plays and only two are thought of as being original stories created by Shakespeare himself. Where did the bulk of Shakespeare’s stories come from?


Shakespeare used a multitude of resources as the base materials for his content – his plays. You need to have an abundance of resources to build your content for your content marketing efforts.


Let’s examine this in more detail.

Where did Shakespeare get his plots?  

Shakespeare got his material from a wide array of sources. He used:


  • Works of history
  • Folktales
  • Travel logs
  • Journals
  • Fables
  • Other plays
  • Legends
  • Materials from classical authors


He used anything he could get his hands on to stimulate ideas and to add depth and variety of content to his works.


Moreover, once Shakespeare had an idea from some other source he would embellish and expand the content (the plot for example) and make every attempt to increase the level of enjoyment for his audience. He sought to entertain his audience and wanted to delight them with his content. You need to do this with your content – your need to delight your audience.

Imagine Shakespeare as a young boy in school at Stratford-upon-Avon. We know his curriculum included the Latin classical writers – this was standard curriculum of the day. In Shakespeare’s day, Latin was taught by teaching students to read and perform classic Latin plays. As an example consider a play by the Roman playwright Plautus. He wrote a play called The Brothers Menaechmus or The Two Menaechmuses. This play by Plautus appears to be the origin of Shakespeare’s play A Comedy of Errors. It is quite possible that young William Shakespeare would have read this. He may have even acted it out in a schoolboy play. 

In the original play by Plautus, there are identical twin brothers. They are separated in childhood and they spend years trying to reunite. They finally do reunite after many absurd misidentifications, confusions and funny errors. Shakespeare, in the Comedy of Errors, adds a second pair of twins. The idea for this second set may also have some from Plautus as in another play by Plautus there are twin servants. With Shakespeare having two pairs of twins this more than doubles the opportunities for errors and humor. He is also able weave more plot lines and depth into the play. In the Comedy of Errors he can expand the portrayal of family, marriage, love and how humans can come together even against great odds. Shakespeare adds depth.


Also, by reading the Roman plays Shakespeare gains a structure or a form. During his early years Shakespeare needed a structure for his early comedies. He used the standard 3-part structure that the Roman playwrights used. Lovers are blocked, the lovers seek to escape from the block and the final part is when the block to love is overcome. The final part restores order. Shakespeare uses this in Comedy of Errors, Two Gentleman of Verona and Love’s Labour’s Lost.


We also need a structure for our content. If we can create our content based on a clear structure then we can produce content more quickly and the format helps our audience to understand the flow of our message better. You need to have a structure for your reviews, case studies, website pages, blog post or any content marketing materials that you produce.


I want to leave you with two main thoughts:


First, expand what you read and what you watch. It will provide you with more ideas for your own content.


Second, plan your content so that it has a clear structure or form. For example use a graphic or graphics that support your structure and that helps lead the reader properly. Be consistent. Create a structure for your materials that aids the reader to follow the flow of your content marketing piece. If you have a series of content pieces then readers will appreciate the structure you create as it will make consuming your content easier for them.


A structure can be applied to all that you do. Have a structure for your facebook business page, your Pinterest page, your YouTube channel, your blog your sales sheets . . . in a word: everything. You audience will appreciate this and the result will be a larger and more engaged audience.