There are several English authors that are referenced in Phebe Gibbs’ “Hartly House.” The narrator, who is a young sixteen year-old female, uses several different quotes from English authors to exemplify the experience she is undergoing being in a foreign place. One of the most influential playwrights in history is Shakespeare. She uses many quotes from him including the one below,
“But what says Shakespear, that great master of human nature? ‘Let no one judge of love but those who feel it.’ Beware then, my dear girl! how you dictate decisely in a case, that never was, and perhaps never can be your own. ‘What medicine can soften the bosom’s keen smart, What Lethe can banish the pain?’ Good night, I will no longer expose myself.”(Gibbs, 181)
She is writing to her friend Arabella and describing the current voyage she is on. One of the reasons I believe, she uses Shakespeare to convey what she is experiencing in India is to prove to her friend, in some way, that she is a well-read and articulate person. She expects that if she is quoting a magnificent and master playwright and she understands Shakespeare’s writing, then she must be intelligent. Shakespeare can sometimes be viewed as a challenging writer to understand, so the fact that she is quoting him, proves that she has a grasp on literature and poetry. Another reason she is quoting Shakespeare in this passage and in the novel in general, is to poeticize the beauty of the things that she is surrounded by.
Using Shakespeare in her writings, Sophia is also stating a point in history. She is showing how integral literature is to the people, because it involves a way of communication that is not just verbal, but written. It shows that Shakespeare was still very meaningful and prominent at that time, he most likely also was used as a form of being in a high brow society. Overall, Sophia is using Shakespeare as a form of bragging, by quoting a playwright that is known to have challenging plays and extremely beautiful poetry.