Allusions to Shakespeare

 in The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Dr. Joanne E. Gates
Jacksonville State University

Brief Introduction 

In the new novel by Jasper Fforde entitled The Eyre Affair, Thursday Next is the female, first person narrator, a female sleuth who is employed as a special operative in the LiteraTecs division of a U.K. set in a futuristic version of the year of 1985. (The George Orwell allusion is obviously intended. The Gothic Corporation runs Europe; a war continues in the Crimea; Wales is an independent socialist state, and the heavioly guarded border will present challenges when the Special Ops need to slip across.)  The flavor of the book reminded me of a female world of James Bond intrigue; however, there is a deliberate "Reader, I married him" aspect to the plot.  Thursday's uncle Mycroft has a bookworm bio-tech experiment (and other nerdy magical inventions) He reminded me of the world of Harry Potter more than Carl Sagan's Contact (No, there aren't worm holes, quite, but these bookworms really chew up a mess). There were parts that seemed more like The Matrix, yet references to Alice in Wonderland are closer to its reality-shifting tone. In its name-dropping to the works of the canon, especially the Victorian canon, it is sure to entertain anyone familiar with well-known literature. 

Essentially, there's hole between fiction and reality, and fictional characters have been leaking out of their books. 

Moreover, there are rich allusions to the Works of William Shakespeare and his place in the culture.  (Yes, there are militant Marlovians -- who have firebombed the Baconians --but they, as well as short reference to a certain Earl, are the bad guys; each time Thursday is confronted with new evidence of the Shakespeare-didn't-write-Shakespeare variety, she is able to successfully dispute or deflect it (at least until her father shows up in the last scene), with, for instance, a challenge: "What about the Will?"--confirming that the man from Stratford knew some important people connected to theatre people in London and thus had to have written those plays.) 

Those readers inclined to need to discover Shakespearean references for themselves, may not want to scroll past this point on this page, but for those who have a need to know, here's my thumbnail list of Shakespeare references in The Eyre Affair

Pages are to the first American edition, Viking Penguin 2002.  It was earlier published in the UK. 



Shakespeare references:

Page 5.  Thursday's father, a time traveler who has recently visited 1978 and brings her a Beatles single, makes a deliberate allusion to Hamlet which Thursday identifies by the time her father alters the second line. "Time  is out of joint. . . . Good job I was born to set it right." 

Page 11-12. Background on the need for the LiteraTecs.  Thursday reports to Gads Hill (Dickens's last residence) from whence the manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit has been stolen. 

Page 37. A Baconian--he introduces himself as Edmund Capillary--starts to rant.  The Special Forces raise their  pistols. Thursday reminds her new partner, temporarily assigned,  that it is not illegal. 

page 38, continuation of the Baconian assault. Thursday replies to him: "If you expect me to believe a lawyer wrote A Midsummer Night's Dream, I must be dafter than I look." 

Page 39.  Thursday Next proposes her "What about the Will?" argument, but not before the Baconian complains that the New Marlovians firebombed the Baconian group that used to meet at the town hall and tries to pass out a pamphlet going into the fact that even two prominent Elizabethan satirists, Marston and Hall believed Bacon has authored Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece

Page 81. The Will-Speak Machine at the airship concourse, Swindon, where Thursday has gone to recuperate from a near fatal gunshot wound. (Her copy of Jane Eyre stopped the bullet, and this has set in motion some of the more major ingredients of the plot). This particular machine –they are officially known as Shakespeare Soliloquy Vending Automation—is the Richard III  brand.  A mannequin is visible from the waist. For ten pence, it "would dispense a short snippet of Shakespeare."  These machines "hadn't been manufactured since the thirties and were now something of a rarity; Baconic vandalism and a lack of trained maintenance were together hastening their demise." 

Page 82. Thursday has put in ten pence and recalls that she and her brother were fascinated with the Hamlet version near their home when young.  (He thought "the undiscovered country" would be a nice place to visit.)  3 lines of "Was ever woman in this humor wooed"; Thursday is interrupted. 

Page 83. The Richard mannequin is still whirring. 

Page 84-5. It finishes the first Richard soliloquy with no audience then stops, "lifeless again until the next coin." 

Page  118. Thursday has met an old beau, Landen, at the piano of the jazz bar. (The bar is named the Chesire Cat and lighted with a red cat in a green tree, both signs made of neon. The cat's outline flashes off every few minutest, leaving the smile by itself in t he tree--page 109.) He has tried to find out why she's in Swindon, then asks if she wants to attend the surprisingly still-running theatrical performance of Richard III

Page 119.  In the hotel room, in addition to the Gideon Bible, the Koran, texts from the Global Standard Deity (meant to stop religious wars), and other sectarian literature, there is the "now mandatory Complete Works of William Shakespeare." 

Page 130.  Thursday is being shown around the local LiteraTec office, overhears a young man answer a phone complaint, a "tirade" about Titus Andronicus

Page 133. Malin and Sole are the officers who deal with crimes related to Shakesepare ("forgery, illegal dealing and overtly free thespian interpretations"; they have detained a man in tights who is a persistent offender; he puts on one-man productions of Twelfth Night; "his Malvolio is truly frightful."  A page that is claimed to be from an early draft of Antony and Cleopatra has been analyzed by the Verse Meter Analyzer and rejected because it had "two many verbs per unit paragraph." 

Page 147. More evidence against the Bacon wrote Shakespeare theory.  Edward de Vere as alternative front-man for Shakespeare's compositions is introduced. 

[Chapter 15 is written objectively. Instead of Thursday Next's narration, we get the depiction of the evil do-ers. Acheron Hades has kidnapped Mycroft, Thursday's uncle who, in addition to refining his lovely bio-tech book worms, has also invented a Prose Portal.  He's sent his wife into blissful transport within the text of "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud," but before he can get her back, must perform a task for Hades. Hades has also co-opted Shakespearean actor, Mr. Hobbes.] 

Page 155. Mr. Hobbes, in tights, jerkin and codpiece, is a actor with the English Shakespeare Company who has been "passed over for ever major part with the ESC for ten years, relegated to walk-ons and understudying." 

Page 156.  Background on the actor Hobbes, in continuation:  Hobbes joined up with Acheron Hades after escape from prison. He had been serving a lengthy prison term because, while playing Hamlet, he had gone overboard and killed Laertes for real. 

Page 159. Just before Hades forces Mycroft to turn on his Prose Portal (his bookworms are already chewing over the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit), actor Hobbes makes sure that before he participates he has Hades' pledge to force the English Shakespeare Company to put on Hobbes improved version of the "Scottish play" along with (or is this merely Hades' satiric hyperbole), Midsummer Night's Dream with chainsaws. 

Page 160. Shakespearean actor Hobbes returns out of the Prose Portal, dragging with him the befuddled lesser character from Martin Chuzzlewit, Mr. Quaverley. 

Page 162. We are back with Thursday Next. She has hooked up with Special Operative Bowden Cable.  Bowden explains the background of Sturmey Archer, whom they are on their way to see. Sturmey got caught and turned state's evidence when he was implicated in a gang formed to market a forgery as Coleridge's continuation of "Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Bowden explains he has some information on Sturmey he could use against him: "I've got some dirt on him about a Cardenio scam. I don't want to use it, but I will if I have to." 

Page 163.  They find Sturmey in a warehouse full of plaster busts (500 or so) and rubber casts (20; he "had a big order on") of Shakespeare.  He also tries to keep busy and out of trouble by repairing Will-Speak machines.  When Thursday and Bowden arrive, Sturmey "had his hand up the back of an Othello."  The mannequin is stuck on repeated phrases from the "It is the cause" soliloquy, and "gave out a terrified cry of MONUMENTAL ALABASTER before falling limp." 

Page 164.  Sturmey confesses he has an order from the Japanese for ten thousand plaster busts; a seven-eighths scale replica of Stratford-upon-Avon is doing good business near Yokohama. Just as they think they are going to get information about the stolen manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit, all hell breaks loose. Gunshots. Bits of plaster fly. They take cover. 

Page 165.  The concussion of one shot sets off a Romeo; then another, and a pair of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth Will Speak mannequins start whispering plans to each other. 

Page 179. After numerous plot twists, Thursday Next meets up with an old beau, Landen Parke-Laine. He has sent her a ticket to Richard III, which has played every Friday night for just about forever. We get a hint that it is an audience participation version. 

Page 180. Indeed it has been ten years since they have spoken, but they used to attend this play regularly. The Ritz is a bit run-down, having played only this production every Friday night for fifteen years, with all the cast drawn from the audience. We will learn bits and pieces of what caused their break-up.  Landen has implicated Thursday's brother Anton in a "fuck-up" with the troops of the 3rd Wessex Tank Light Armored Brigade in the Crimean War.  (The war's still going on, just about everybody's served there. Fringe politicians are arguing better strategies, but the sad fact is that Anton died leading a doomed charge.  Some of Thursday's own simpler tactical blunders will eventually be seen to grant Landen reprieve from being blamed for ruining her dead brother's reputation.)  Here, in Chapter 18, they have a great time reconnecting to the fun of the audience participation Richard III.   [Shakespeare meets Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Page 181.  Landen and Thursday meet outside the theatre. Reference to local actors and touring stars who drop by to participate. 

Page 182. Announcement before the play. Performers Ralph and Thea Swanavon are attending for their 200th time; each has performed numerous parts many times; this is their first time opposite each other as Lady Anne and "Dick the shit." 

Page 183.  Clever depictions of an audience helping along the opening: "On the word 'summer' [made glorious summer by this son of York] six hundred people placed sunglasses on and looked up at an imaginary sun."  Thursday finds herself reciting the words along with everybody else. When Richard recites ". . . to the lacivious pleasing of a lute. . . " the audience volunteers other musical instruments, "Piano! [ . . . ] Bagpipes! [ . . . ]  Euphonium!" 

Page 184.  More details of the tradition of this production. "[F]ans would drive from all over the country to participate, and it was never anything but a full house."  When Richard mentions he is "rudely stamp'd," all the audience begin a thunderous stamping of their feet.  When he describes dogs barking at him, we hear the barks.  Clarence is loudly forwarned that "Gloucester begins with G, dummy!"; they caution the Duke of York not to mention "the hump" and when he does, they prounounce his immediate fate, "The Tower! The Tower!" 

Page 185.  "A pink pantomine horse" appears "on cue when Richard [offers] to swap his kingdom for just such a beast."  The battle at Bosworth Field engages the whole audience and  moves out into the foyer; the Richmond character snatches a girl from behind the ice-cream counter as his Elizabeth, and all pledge allegiance to the first Tudor king. 

Page 189. Indirect reference to Hamlet, in one of Hamlet's soliloquies. Thursday: "I slowly drifted into sleep and with sleep came troubled dreams." 

Page 205. The LiteraTecs are finally figuring out that the bad guys are tampering with Martin Chuzzlewit.  In discussing whether "this" [a character disappearing from his work] has ever happened before," Victor Analogy explains to Thursday, in reference to The Taming of the Shrew, that the drunken Christopher Sly character is the one for whom the play is performed.  In proving her recall of the plot, Thursday volunteers: "He has a few lines at the end of act one and that is the last we hear of him . . . " 

Page 206.  Victor explains to Thursday that just six years ago a Christopher Sly was "found wandering in a confused state just outside Warwick."  He "spoke only Elizabethan English"; he "demanded a drink"; and he "was very keen to see how the play turned out." Victor was able to question the man for half an hour.  "[H]e never came to the realization that he was no longer in his own play." 

[Prior to page 211.  There has been more certainty that Acheron Hades is threatening more ominous deeds than that of hijacking Quaverley out of Chuzzlewit, and evidence that it works the other way, real people have crossed into fiction and stayed:  Thursday is prepared to mention her own previous encounter with Rochester.  Before Sly, there was some evidence that people entered books, but investigators thought of it as a one way transport.  A collector of Antiquarian Books, Redmond Bulge, vanished in 1926 while reading Dombey and Son.  A first review of Donbey and Son, 1851, failed to mention Mr. Glubb, the Brighton Fisherman.  Apparently Bulge (or e-glub written backwards) is supposed to have transformed into Glubb and altered the  post-1851 editions of the book. ] 

Page 211. It appears that Christopher Sly is no longer available for questioning, but "went back . . . Quite of his own accord, although unfortunately because he was so drunk he went back not to Will's version of The Taming of the Shrew, but to an uneven rendition in one of the Bad Quartos.  Melted into thin air one day while under observation." 

Page 218. Bowden attempts to ask Thursday out for dinner.  Thursday tells us they have little in common "except for an interest in who really wrote Shakespeare's plays."  Bowden briefly sketches the Earl of Oxford theory. Meres, in Palladis Tamia (1598) names Earl of Oxford as an author, but also names and gives credit to Shakespeare for authoring plays he lists. 

Page 219.  Earl of Oxford theory, concluded: front-man theories don't work, yet if another did write the plays, Kit Marlowe is a good candidate. 

Page 246. Victor Analogy and Thursday need to infiltrate the Earthcrossers society, because its co-founder Dr. Müller, operating under the alias, Dr. Cassiopeia, will know what Acheron Hades is up to or where he is. (The Earthcrossers are meeting secretly but anticipate a meteor shower. They will be showered with meteorites, which they will try to snare with catchers' mitts.)  Victor knows his fake ID will be only a first test.  They are fed a series of difficult solar-system questions, beginning with which planet has the highest and lowest density and finally culminating in the recitation of Uranus' moons. After starting to list from the furthest away, Victor is challenged but then recites flawlessly, from the closest first: "Cordelia, Ophelia, Bianca, Cressida, Desdemona, Juliet, Portia, Rosalind, Belinda, Puck Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, and Oberon." 
(Attentive readers will note that, as this is 1985, there is no need to mention Caliban and Sycorax [discovered 1997] nor the three as yet unnamed moons of Uranus [discovered 1999].) 

Page 259. Thursday is pausing before the climatic battle with the enemy (The LiteraTecs will discover that Acheron Hades has selected another manuscript to tinker with, Chuzzlewit having been rendered unavailable because Thursday's uncle knows what's up and burns it before it can be put to use. Thursday is back at her hotel, commiserating with herself because her old beau is marrying someone else.  She leaves notice that she can be found at the piano bar, then strikes up a conversation with the bartender.  It turns out he had trained to be a LiteraTec, got as far as a cadet, but then became implicated when his girlfriend, a "militant Marlovian," sabotaged someWill Speak machines so that they recited Tamburlane." 

Page 260. Thursday teases out of bartender Chris some speculation about whether Marlowe wrote the plays of Shakespeare.  Although Chris has married his girlfriend, settled in with two kids, and tends bar at night, his day job is to run the four-thousand member Swindon branch of the Kit Marlowe society.  He knows he should not be talking to a real agent, but Thursday reminds him there is "no law against discussion, Chris.  What do you think we are, the thought police?" 

Page 261. Theories about Kit Marlowe's death, that Walsingham faked his death. 

Page 262.  Chris volunteers an inconsistency he has noticed. ("Don't tell the other Marlovians," he cautions.)  Walshingham was more likely to have had Marlowe killed than to have faked his death.  Still, Thursday eggs him on by speculating who else but Marlowe could have possibly written Shakespeare's plays.  Here, if we've followed closely, we note that Thursday is just entertaining herself with the conversation, volunteering to Chris that there is too little evidence that people in Stratford knew the Shakespeare who wrote the plays.  If the conversation continued, she might well entrap him with evidence about "The Will," but Chris shrugs and notes that "the Elizabethans were a funny bunch.  Court intrigue, the secret service. . . " 

[Thursday's exploits save the day. She enters into the plot of Jane Eyre in order to help Rochester call Jane back to him.  There are many delightful intrigues and satiric twists upon the original.  Everyone to this point has recognized the greatness of the novel but felt a little odd about its ending. In the text everybody knows, Jane agrees to marry St. John. Thursday's stay with Rochester and the resulting action she takes causes every reader's text of Jane Eyre to change accordingly.  99 of 100 readers are delighted with the new ending, "Jane and Rochester married! Isn't that wonderful?" (361). Thursday is a little worried what how Brontë Federation will react, but a splinter group of the Federation, Brontë for the People, approves. Thursday's personal fortunes match those of Jane, thanks to the clever twist upon Brontë's own plotting:  a solicitor interrupts Landen's marriage to a golddigger to reveal that Daisy Muttlar is already married; she is Mrs. Daisy Posh (353).  Landen and Thursday get married] 

Page 368.  Thursday's father appears from his time travels to visit Landen and Thursday at their wedding reception, but his timing is a little off.  He appears a few minutes before Thursday asks him questions, to which he now has answers.  She has to guess at what she might have sent him off to research: "How about the authorship of the Shakespeare plays?" 

Page 369. Now that they are in sync, Thursday's father tells her what she wanted to know.  He has visited London in 1610 and found out that "Shakespeare was only an actor with a potentially embarrassing sideline as a purveyor of bagged commodities in Stratford."  Moreover, he has discovered that the plays do not exist.  When Thursday contradicts him ("we saw Richard III only six weeks ago"), her father explains his exploit.  When he realizes that "Time is out of joint big time," he revisits1592 and gives a copy of the complete works to the actor Shakespeare "to distribute on a given timetable." 

Landen and Thursday cannot understand how neither Shakespeare, Marlow, Edward De Vere, nor Bacon have written the plays, but father explains "Given the huge 

[Page 370] timescale of the cosmos, impossible things are commonplace." 

Thursday's father repeats the allusion he started with, but this time word-for-word, exactly as Hamlet spoke it:  "Time is out of joint. O cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right!" 

When it dawns on Thursday that he was not quoting from Hamlet, but "the other way round," she exclaims: 

"You  put that in?" 

With a smile, Thursday's father acknowledges his complicity:  "A small personal vanity that I'm sure will be forgiven, Thursday.  Besides:  Who's to know?"  [See page 5.]

[The last pages are suggestive of continued intrigue.  One of the villains, Jack Schitt, has been returned to a manuscript, not of the design of the Plasma Rifle, but to the poems of Edgar Allan Poe, and funny things are happening at least to one copy of "The Raven." Thursday's father warns her to stay away from certain things, including: "don't be near Oxford in June 2016" (page 370).] 

To cite this document: 
Gates, Joanne E. " Allusions to Shakespeare in The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde."  Available at the Shakespeare Resources Pages of Professor Joanne E. Gates, English Department. Jacksonville State University. 24 April 2002. [pages printout]. [Date of access] <htp://>. 

Teachers are welcome to copy and make use of this page for educational purposes, provided that the document is not altered nor reconfigured and that the compiler is contacted. Joanne E. Gates at

Students are reminded that book reports and analyses must be in their own words, and that consulting aids such as this page which contains detailed extractions from the source must be accorded proper credit. 

Disclaimers: The pages listed are neither definitive, nor meant to sell more copies of a book with which I have no commercial affiliation. A computer detective should be able to confirm that my enumeration of Shakespeare references was completed, only to be converted to hypertext and edited, before exploring the web resources for the book and thus be assured that I am not trying to imitate, borrow, elevate nor denegrate. Readers will, when searching the web for the book's title/character/author, discover several clever web sites which continue the conceits in the book and promise a wider fictive world. They should find, as they will in the book, a few hints that sequels are planned. 

All  materials © 2002 by Dr. Joanne E. Gates. The materials for these pages are copyrighted by Dr. Joanne E. Gates.  You may not establish links to nor copy, nor re-edit, nor redistribute the information in these pages in any form, electronic or printed, without Dr. Gates's written permission. No institutional funds were expended expressly in developing this page. The professor retains the right to her own content as intellectual property.  Direct quotations from material under copyright conforms to research / educational use and in no way undermines the originator's rights to his material.

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