Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Richard C. McCoy

Committee Members

Mario DiGangi

Ammiel Alcalay

Subject Categories

Literature in English, British Isles


Chaucer, Shakespeare, influence, dream visions, poetics


This dissertation explores echoes of Chaucer's dream visions in two of Shakespeare's late plays, Cymbeline and The Tempest, and in the induction to The Taming of the Shrew. Shakespeare turns to Chaucer's dream visions, particularly The Book of the Duchess and The House of Fame, not to use them as narrative sources, but to appropriate conventional elements of artistic self-exploration and self-definition in them. Chaucer's dreamers, who are also writers, read classic stories in bed, dream dreams that react to those stories, and then wake up and write new poems that report on what they have read and dreamed. Shakespeare, this dissertation argues, engages these meta-poetic moves from Chaucer's dream visions, working them into his dramatic designs, parodically in The Taming of the Shrew, integrally in Cymbeline and The Tempest, and, in so doing, explores and defines his own poetic sensibility in relation to that of Chaucer, his most important literary precursor in English. Shakespeare vies with Chaucer as a rival in the reception and adaptation of classical Roman literature, favoring a darker, more disturbing vision of the influence of the great Augustans, Ovid and Virgil, on the craft of English poetic composition, particularly in the representation of women; he also vies with his rival poet-playwright, Ben Jonson, reputed the rightful heir to Chaucer, as well as the better classicist, as a rival Chaucerian, pitting his creative engagement with the unruly elements of Chaucer's artistic self-portraiture against Jonson's efforts to uphold his great authority.