Abstract: While most crossover fanfiction focuses on characters of different works interacting, fanfiction involving Shakespeare often involves characters from one work interacting with a particular Shakespeare text. By examining this phenomenon in three Harry Potter/Romeo and Juliet crossover fanfictions, it can be seen that Shakespeare’s language and cultural capital are being used in fan communities in order to develop new interpretations of both Harry Potter and Shakespeare’s work, especially when it comes to utilizing tropes like “star-crossed lovers” to develop relationships not present in Harry Potter’s text. As such, Shakespeare has taken on a role in these fanfictions that is magic-like, and the fanfictions speak to how Shakespeare, rather than becoming lowbrow popular culture, has instead ascended to a role in literature no author has reached before.
Literature Review: Scholars that have studied Shakespeare in relation to fanfiction such as MK Finn and Michelle Yost have argued that Shakespeare’s existence and prevalence on fanfiction sites is a sign of his descendance from a literary pedestal to existence on the same level as other “lowbrow” popular culture, such as Star Trek and The Avengers. A 2013 survey of high school English teachers showed that 93% of ninth-grade classrooms studied Romeo and Juliet, which fueled some scholars in their belief that Shakespeare, by becoming more accessible, has lost some of his highbrow reputation. However, I argue that rather than this accessibility resulting in the loss of Shakespeare’s cultural power, this power has instead increased, and Shakespeare has taken on a role in culture unseen by any other author, and this can be seen most clearly in his impact on fanfiction and his popularization of tropes like “star-crossed lovers,” which have moved beyond an existence in Shakespeare’s plays and have now been used as an interpretive lens in their own right.