Shakespearean Themes in The Night Circus: Background information when reading The Night Circus

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The Night Circus

A Novel

by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2011, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2012, 400 pages

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Beyond the Book:
Shakespearean Themes in The Night Circus

Print Review

The use of magical motifs in Erin Morgenstern's debut novel, The Night Circus, helps make it a unique and fascinating read. William Shakespeare But the literary device is by no means new. Magic can be found in some of the oldest, most revered pieces of literature throughout history, as in William Shakespeare's The Tempest. In fact, his play served as an inspiration for Morgenstern's novel.

In The Night Circus, Prospero the Enchanter maintains a magical persona and attempts to control his daughter's life, much like his namesake in The Tempest, who has the ability to call on spirits and charm his daughter Miranda to sleep.

When confronted with these similarities in an interview with TribLive, Morgenstern admitted that her story shares various themes with both The Tempest and Romeo and Juliet. She explains, "Some of the Shakespearean aspects actually came up late in the development of the story... I had all the characters there, and the plot wasn't structured the same way it is now. Once I started moving things around, I looked at it and thought, if I do this, it's going to be Romeo and Juliet."

But with much work, and despite her initial concerns, Morgenstern's book has come to be widely praised for its depth and originality. It seems to have sparked a magic all its own.

For further reading on magical realism, visit BookBrowse's featured "Beyond the Book".

This article was originally published in September 2011, and has been updated for the July 2012 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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