The narrator of Middlemarch doesn't just know everything about everybody in the novel (that's what "third person omniscient" means), she seems to know everything about everybody, ever. The narrator is always making references or comparisons to literature, art, music, science, and history – these references are so frequent that most readers are constantly flipping to the footnotes or visiting the "historical references" section of Shmoop's "Shout Outs." Why does the narrator do this? Well, one effect of all those references is to make the struggles of the individual characters seem more timeless and universal. The narrator is always switching from the micro-level problems of characters in the novel to the macro-level trends that those characters represent. And by frequently referring to famous authors (Shakespeare, anyone?), the narrator is able to make the point that the struggles she's representing in Middlemarch aren't unique to the nineteenth century – they're timeless.