Provided a comprehensive history of Britain and thus, uses settings from various sites across England, Scotland and Ireland to base its geographical encyclopediac-content. As a book that primarily covers the histories of famous and infamous people across a wide time span from the first inhabitations of Great Britain till the mid-16th century. The most clear-cut example of Shakespeare’s use of the Holinshed’s Chronicles is seen in the play Macbeth wherein the real-life character is sourced for inspiration from which Shakespeare derives Macbeth’s companions; Banquo and Fleance from the book too. King Duncan’s portrayal is shifted immensely from his real life persona labelled in the Chronicles as he is perceived as a weaker king rather than as a fair, just and successful leader as described by Holinshed.
Holinshed’s Chronicles are relevant to Henry IV, Part 1, as Shakespeare used them as historical evidence of certain facts within the play, and used these pieces of evidence as various plot points within the play. Shakepeare used the chronicles for some of his other plays too, such as Henry IV, Part 2, Hnery V, Richard II, Richard III, Macbeth and King Lear.
He used the chronicles in a range of ways, sometimes following the text of the histories closely, sometimes even echoing its words and phrases. Shakespeare occasionally used it as an inspiration for plot details; and at other times deviating from its account altogether, either preferring other sources or his own imagination. Comparing Shakespeare’s plays to Holinshed and other sources can provide insight into his creative intentions and processes, as well as giving us an idea of some of the context in which Shakespeare’s contemporary audiences would have understood his plays.
It is widely believed that Shakespeare
used the 1587 edition of Holinshed, based on similarities between some of
Shakespeare’s text and passages which only appear in the later edition.
What’s interesting about Holinshed’s Chronicles is that it covers so much of the history of England, Scotland and Ireland, and is reliable enough of a source to be used by many Renaissance writers such as Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Edmund Spenser, Samuel Daniel, and many more.