Least interesting are Shakespearean references as dedications or chapter headings since these allusions are often set the plays' text in isolation. For example, Janis Laden's Moonlight Veil includes Shakespearean quotations at the head of every chapter, but these references were clearly generated by concordance--every one is a reference to the moon or moonlight. Thus the headings are coherent with the title of the book and the general theme of moonlight, but are not closely tied to the material in any given chapter. Although also drawn concordance-style from all Shakespeare's works, the epigrams in Christina Dodd's The Greatest Lover in England are directly tied to the content of the chapters and the book itself draws upon Shakespeare's plays, particularly Hamlet, with the context of the action. Surprisingly many romance novels allude to the plays or characters in this partial way.
Particular authors often use the strategy with some consistency. Joan Wolf, for example, uses such chapter heading quotations in any number of her novels, often included with quotations from other poetic sources from the Renaissance on (The Counterfeit Marriage, A London Season , His Lordship's Mistress , Lord Richard's Daughter ). With her next book, Fool's Masquerade (1984), Wolf abandoned the chapter heading quotations (always relevant to the chapter content, by the way) and instead gave only focused quotations from Twelfth Night, one at the start of each part. Each section heading singles a different mode in the relationship between the heroine and hero; the first uses Viola's account of her sister to signal the heroine's stint in masculine disguise and the second signals the hero's recognition, once his page has left, that he is in love with the disguised girl.
More frequently, when such epigrams do apply, as in Jean Ewing's Scandal's Reward or the opening epigram to Edith Layton's Game of Love , their involvement with the actual narrative is less extensive than in Fool's Masquerade , in some cases functioning as an authorial grace note marking erudition and historical context though not the historical period of the novel's themselves. Perhaps these brief references to Shakespeare serve as a reminder that these authors are serious writers. As Linda Barlow and Jayne Ann Krentz have argued, the linguistic codes of the romance novel often provoke the most vocal denigration of the form:
Nothing about the romance genre is more reviled by literary critics and, indeed, the public at large, than the conventional diction of romance. Descriptive passages are regularly culled from romance novels and read aloud with great glee and mockery by everybody from college professors to talk show hosts. You would think that we romance novelists--who, like anyone else, cringe at the thought of being made the object of ridicule on national TV--would have the wit to clean up our act. After all, we are talented professionals. We're quite capable of choosing other, more subtle, less effusive forms of narrative and discourse (21).
According the Krentz and Barlow, communing with their audiences require these much-derided patterns of language. Just as important, A.S. Byatt realizes in her essay on Georgette Heyer, "how difficult good escape literature is to write" (233). Certainly romance novelists assert their position as "talented professional" writers through the allusions to Shakespeare, characterized openly by Deanna James as the greatest writer of all time and credited with the inspiration for the multi-act structure of her two novels, Acts of Passion/Acts of Love . However, even though such allusions may serve a self-legitimating purpose, the references and even revisions of Shakespeare are too pervasive to serve only that purpose; more to the point, such references often rework Shakespearean language and plots to serve the genric requirements of romance.
Novels using Shakespearean Titles/Epigrams / Reference List by Play / Next Section: Shakespeare Quoters