Blake mentions Shakespeare 16 times, six of them in letters (1 to Flaxman and 5 to Hayley).
Blake in his letter to Flaxman named Shakespeare right after Milton and the two Bible prophets for his primary sources:
"Now my lot in the Heavens is this; Milton lovd me in childhood & shewd me his face Ezra came with Isaiah the Prophet, but Shakespeare in riper years gave me his hand Paracelsus & Behmen appeard to me."
We may find quotations from Shakespeare and allusions to Shakespeare scattered through his works, some obvious and others less so.
In an Island in the Moon he referred to Shakespeare as 'too wild'.
In Annotations to Swedenborgs Heaven and Hell he commented disparagingly about a reference he had made to Shakespeare. (Erdman 601)
In Prospectus (E692) he referred to the inability of Milton and Shakespeare to publish their own works.
In letters 32, 36, and 46 (and others):
Fuseli was a friend and fellow artist of Blake's. After Blake had returned from Felpham (and the patronage of Hayley) he was involved in the Shakespeare plates of Fuseli.
Writing to William Hayley (Erdman 742):I cannot omit observing that the price Mr. Johnson gives for the
plates of Fuseli's Shakespeare (the concluding numbers
of which I now send) is twenty-five guineas each.
He told Hayley that he had enclosed "the < 22> Numbers of Fuselis Shakespeare that are out". (Letter 36 Erdman 742)
This quotation places Milton and Shakespeare together as did the letter to Flaxman; in Public Address (Erdman 576):
"The Originality of this Production makes it necessary to
say a few words
While the Works [of Translators] of Pope & Dryden
are lookd upon as [in the Same class of] the Same Art with those
of Milton & Shakespeare."
Drawn with a firm hand at once [with all its Spots & Blemishes which are beauties & not faults] like Fuseli & Michael Angelo Shakespeare & Milton>
In Blake's Descriptions to Illustrations to Milton's L'Allegro he offered us
"Or Sweetest Shakespeare Fancys Child", presumably a quotation to Milton, to which Blake added:
"The youthful Poet sleeping on a bank by the Haunted Stream
by Sun Set sees in his Dream the more bright Sun of Imagination.
under the auspices of Shakespeare & Johnson. in which is Hymen at
a Marriage & the Antique Pageantry attending it"
This appears in a recent post, which I've copied bodily:
Saturday, September 22, 2012
MILTON'S L'ALLEGRO VI
In his manuscript notes accompanying his watercolors Blake singles out these verses from Milton for his sixth illustration to L'Allegro:
Descriptions of Illustrations to Milton's L'Allegro and Il Penseroso (E 682)
"There let Hymen oft appear
In Saffron Robe with Taper clear
With Mask & Antique Pageantry
Such sights as Youthful Poets dream
On Summers Eve by haunted Stream
Then lo the well trod Stage anon
If Johnsons learned Sock be on
Or Sweetest Shakespeare Fancys Child
Warble his native wood notes wild"
"The youthful Poet sleeping on a bank by the Haunted Stream by Sun Set sees in his Dream the more bright Sun of Imagination. under the auspices of Shakespeare & Johnson. in which is Hymen at a Marriage & the Antique Pageantry attending it"
The youthful poet had entered a dream state which offered a pleasant interlude from the cares of the world. He visited with some of the sources of his inspiration: Shakespeare & Johnson are adjacent to the great sun but not within it.