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Allusion in Civil Disobedience

Allusion Examples in Civil Disobedience:

Civil Disobedience

10

""We must affect our country as our parents,..."   (Civil Disobedience)

Thoreau has pulled this quotation from George Peele's (1556–1596) play The Battle of Alcazar, which was published in 1594.

""A drab of state,..."   (Civil Disobedience)

Thoreau is quoting from Thomas Middleton's play The Revenger's Tragedy, which was first performed in 1608. The play depicts events around a decaying, worsening political situation. The noun “drab” in this line means a prostitute or harlot, and so Thoreau is using this line to say that states have prostituted themselves rather than enact meaningful change.

""I am too high-born to be propertied,..."   (Civil Disobedience)

Thoreau is quoting from Shakespeare's King John, act V, scene II, in which Prince Louis claims that he is of too high a status to serve the will of another.

""Not a drum was heard, not a funeral note,..."   (Civil Disobedience)

Thoreau is quoting from the first stanza of Charles Wolfe's (1791–1823) poem “The Burial of Sir John Moore at Corunna.” Written in 1816 and published in 1817, the poem discusses the simple burial of a soldier without fanfare, which Thoreau uses in contrast with his mention of military funerals.

"Orpheus..."   (Civil Disobedience)

A figure in Greek mythology, Orpheus is a poet and musician credited with inventing the lyre, a stringed instrument similar to a harp. His music is so powerful that he can charm beasts, the dead, and even make nature dance and move, earning him the name “father of songs.”

"“Render therefore to Caesar that which is Caesar's, and to God those things which are God's,”..."   (Civil Disobedience)

Further building on the allusion to Matthew 22:19 above, Thoreau continues his argument about money and authority in this reference to the biblical book of Matthew 22:21. Here, he repeats Jesus’s words with a slightly different emphasis: people should pay money to the government only if they benefit from and agree with the government’s policies.

"“Show me the tribute-money,”..."   (Civil Disobedience)

This is a reference to the biblical book of Matthew 22:19, in which Jesus says, “Show me the tax-money.” The words here may differ, but the meaning remains the same. Money carries an image of the authority of the state, but this is different from a moral authority.

"Some are petitioning the State to dissolve the Union..."   (Civil Disobedience)

Thoreau is making a reference to slavery and the threats of the southern states to secede. Since “Civil Disobedience” was published in 1849, this is a clear indication that slavery had remained a contentious issue since the country was founded, eventually leading to the American Civil War (1861–1865). However, Thoreau is not making an argument for or against slavery in this passage; rather, he is building a case for people to not pay taxes to the treasury as a form of protest.

"in the Revolution of '75..."   (Civil Disobedience)

This is a reference to the Revolutionary War, fought from 1775 to 1783, in which the American colonies rebelled against the British Empire in order to establish independence from British rule. Thoreau refers to this revolution in order to make a parallel comparison to his current situation and argument.

"“stop a hole to keep the wind away,”..."   (Civil Disobedience)

Thoreau is making a reference to act V, scene I in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in which Hamlet says “Imperious Caesar, dead and turn'd to clay / Might stop a hole to keep the wind away.” This allusion helps illustrate Thoreau’s claim: people have to be active and living to be wise and make changes. They cannot simply try to maintain the status quo.

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