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Poets and Playwrights

Poets and Playwrights: Shakespeare, Jonson, Spenser, Milton

Elmer Edgar Stoll
Copyright Date: 1930
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 292
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  • Book Info
    Poets and Playwrights
    Book Description:

    Poets and Playwrights is a collection of nine essays by the eminent Shakespearean scholar and critic, the late Elmer Edgar Stoll. In this work, which was first published by the University of Minnesota Press in 1930, Professor Stoll presents his maturest consideration of the art of the poets and playwrights of his subtitle -- Shakespeare, Jonson, Spenser, and Milton. The most extensive essay, “Shakespeare and the Moderns,” includes, in Mr. Stoll’s words, “a review of Shakespeare as I conceive him, in order the better to compare him with those who in some respect or other are his peers.”

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6459-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-2)
  3. I Cleopatra
    (pp. 3-29)

    Cleopatra - the name itself works a spell. It wakens memories, renews vibrations; a name that has, I suppose, at no time been forgotten during two thousand years. Ever since the age of woman-worship and chivalry the Egyptian queen has been one of love’s martyrs. She is a Good Woman to Chaucer, and figures in hisLegend. Being all save dull and stupid that a loving woman ought not to have been, she then became all that for her own delight and her lovers’ she ought to have been, having loved and been loved unto death. That was the medieval...

  4. II Henry V
    (pp. 30-51)

    Shakespeare’sHenry Vis the last of his English “histories,” which cover the line of kings from Richard II to Richard III. Though itself not one of his greatest plays, it was written, in 1599, when Shakespeare had entered into the plenitude of his powers, had almost finished his series of comedies, and was about to touch the pinnacle of his art inHamlet, Othello, King Lear,andMacbeth. That — from 1602 to about 1607 — was the period of tragedy; this, of history and comedy; that, the period of gloom and terror; this, of love and joy and...

  5. III Shakespeare and the Moderns [Corneille, Racine, Ibsen]
    (pp. 52-126)

    Shakespeare, by common consent the greatest name in drama, is on the stage a name and little more. How seldom does he look down from the wall or ceiling of the theater, where as the patron saint he hangs enshrined, upon his creatures treading that little space to which he likened, and which he made, the world! Like many another in the calendar, he is rarely invoked, little frequented. Is it because of the difficulty of his language? In part, for in Germany, where he is still played, he speaks the modern tongue. But there is a better reason —...

  6. IV The Old Drama and the New [Ben Jonson]
    (pp. 127-138)

    Two of Mr. Archer’s main purposes in writing his recent valuable book,The Old Drama and the New, he has achieved. He has brought our contemporary English playwrights as men of letters more completely into their own; and (with one more blast before the Drama League the other night¹ to make an end of it) he has dispelled the Elizabethan superstition, which for a century, if not for centuries, has hung over our stage like a cloud, blighting original work and darkening the counsels of criticism. In the eighteenth century it was the classical superstition that stood in the dramatist’s...

  7. V The Stage and the House [Then and Now]
    (pp. 139-152)

    The other day, for the first time in a double decade, I went to a football game; and there I was visited, not by passions, whether felicitous or infelicitous, but (of all things) by an idea. As I sat in the million-dollar stadium, along with 50,000 other mortals, but looked, not so much down into the arena or bull-ring as at the roaring audience roundabout it, I thought to myself, This is the American theater, or (in some measure) this is what that theater should be. Here stage and house are in sympathy, have a perfect understanding, are, for a...

  8. VI Spenser
    (pp. 153-186)

    Spenser is the high priest of English romanticism. Not only was he the leader of the romantic spirit in the Elizabethan Age, but he afterwards presided over what we call the Romantic Revival. Shakespeare and Milton were the names then held most in reverence, but the spirit abroad was Spenser’s. Without him, of course, there would have been a revival, but one wonders if it would have been quite the same. All the leaders and chief personalities felt in some way his impress, came at some time under his spell — Thomson and Shenstone, the Wartons and Chatterton, Gray and...

  9. VII Was Paradise Well Lost?
    (pp. 187-192)

    There are few things in literature so beautiful as the endings of Milton’s three long poems.Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, andSamson Agonistes, the great Puritan poems of sin and righteousness, end, each in its own way, on a quiet note of reconciliation with life. In all three the story tapers off and there is no final climax. In all three the grand style sinks into the simple, the music dies away on the slow chords of a cadence, the mighty pinions on which the poet was lifted in his flight float him gently down to earth again. And in...

  10. VIII Certain Fallacies and Irrelevancies in the Literary Scholarship of the Day [Shakespeare and Milton in the Hands of the Learned]
    (pp. 193-220)

    Why do we find the reading of the scholarly journals a burden? Why do some of us read only those articles which touch upon what we ourselves are writing about, and to see if they attack us or if we can attack them? The writers are — Ph.D’s. It is their fortune and our misfortune. They came in with a dissertation, and dissertations they are still penning. (I have the right to say this; it has been said of me.) And sometimes the chief difference — sweet to the writer but less so to the reader — lies in the...

  11. IX Milton, Puritan of the Seventeenth Century
    (pp. 221-272)

    This essay is a study of a poet’s personality. Seldom has one of the highest order left its impress in verse so boldly and completely as John Milton’s. He wrote about himself, but above all he continually revealed himself in his art and manner. Confessions say much but reveal little, and this indirect and unconscious self-disclosure is really the more direct. It is so in Dante, who though a Catholic is the poet nearest akin — the stamp of his personality means more than all he undertakes to tell.

    Milton was, of course, a Puritan, though we are inclined of...

  12. INDEX
    (pp. 273-282)