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Shakespeare and the Poet's Life

Shakespeare and the Poet's Life

Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Shakespeare and the Poet's Life
    Book Description:

    Shakespeare and the Poet's Lifeexplores a central biographical question: why did Shakespeare choose to cease writing sonnets and court-focused long poems likeThe Rape of LucreceandVenus and Adonisand continue writing plays? Author Gary Schmidgall persuasively demonstrates the value of contemplating the professional reasons Shakespeare -- or any poet of the time -- ceased being an Elizabethan court poet and focused his efforts on drama and the Globe. Students of Shakespeare and of Renaissance poetry will find Schmidgall's approach and conclusions both challenging and illuminating.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5725-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Note on Citations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    THIS STUDY is, above all, about the English Renaissance poet’s life, his motivations for poetizing, his attitudes toward the economy of letters, and the attitudes of society (high society in particular) toward his profession. Paradoxically, it will focus on an author who appears to have entertained for a very short time the notion of being a dedicated (and dedicating), publishing, professional poet and will offer, from several perspectives, some answers to a highly speculative but important and fascinating question about his artistic biography: Why was it William Shakespeare’s destiny as a poet to “Bud, and be blasted, in a breathing...

  6. Chapter One “Thou Thing Most Abhorred” The Poet and His Muse
    (pp. 11-47)

    VENUS, Shakespeare’s first masterly comic character to appear before the public in print, has—like virtually all his subsequent protagonists—evoked reactions wildly at variance with each other. C.S. Lewis, decidedly immune to her charms, wrote that she reminded him of those corpulent older women with expansive bosoms and moist lips who harassed him when he was a boy. Others have more recently nominated Venus genetrix of eloquence, predatory Freudian mother, protean temptress, a forty-year-old countess with a taste for Chapel Royal altos, and the embodiment of infinite desire. One critic, wishing to encompass all of Venus’s many facets, has...

  7. Chapter Two “Dedicated Words” The Strategies of Front Matter
    (pp. 48-88)

    STUDENTS of the Renaissance—inured to the nuisance of negotiating the few pages of bombasted, furbelowed prose or the conspicuously bad sonnet with which so many volumes from the period begin—have good reason to wonder, as Nashe does, at this “blinde custome.”¹ For once one has read a few dedicatory epistles and addresses to the reader, one can almost say one has read them all. The elaborately deferential salutations, the clichéd imagery of self-deprecation (barren “leaves” and the lump of flesh licked into bear-cub form were favorites), and the many captious gestures aimed at backbiting Zoiluses and carping Momuses...

  8. Chapter Three Poet’s Labors Lost Patronage in Shakespeare
    (pp. 89-122)

    THE IDEAL relationship between patron and individual client (the corporate clientage of players is beyond the scope of this study) is frequently invoked in the literature of the Renaissance—most often, naturally, in the “dedicated words which writers use / Of their fair subjects, blessing every book” (SON 82). William Webbe’s epistle for hisDiscourse of English Poesie(1586) offers a typical example: “The wryters of all ages have sought as an undoubted Bulwarke and stedfast savegarde the patronage of Nobilitye (a shield as sure as can be to learning) wherin to shrowde and safelye place their severall inventions.”¹ But...

  9. Chapter Four “Chameleon Muse” The Poet’s Life in Shakespeare’s Courts
    (pp. 123-160)

    THE IMAGE of the chameleon was a natural one for describing the behavior of an evil Renaissance courtier. Not coincidentally, the image could also be useful in capturing the spirit of the Petrarchan love-object—or of the Renaissance poet himself:

    Love her that list! I am content

    For that cameleon-like she changeth,

    Yielding such mists as may prevent

    My sight to view her when she rangeth.

    [Robert Jones,First Booke of Songes]

    YetAstrophellmight one for all suffize,

    Whose supple Muse Camelion-like doth change

    Into all formes of excellent devise.

    [John Davics,Orchestra]

    The courtier, poet, andamour courtois...

  10. Chapter Five “Fearful Meditation” The Young Man and the Poet’s Life
    (pp. 161-195)

    SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE wrote that he found the “promise of genius” in Shakespeare’s early narrative poems because “the choice of subjects [was] very remote from the private interests and circumstances of the writer himself.” This is a species of the genus of critical opinion that praises Shakespeare for the power and consistency of his self-abnegation, for subduing his nature ungrudgingly to what it worked in, “like the dyer’s hand” (SON 111). Praising the poet’s “utter aaloofness” from his own feelings, Coleridge adds, “I have found that where the subject is taken immediately from the author’s personal sensations and experiences,...

  11. Epilogue: Statues and Breathers
    (pp. 196-203)

    OVER a generation ago allegorical interpretations ofAntony and Cleopatrawere in fashion, the Roman-Alexandrian axis representing to different critical eyes the conflict between Reason and Intuition, the World and the Flesh, or Power and Love.¹ By way of concluding this exploration of the Renaissance poet’s life in Shakespeare’s works and reiterating my speculations about his transformation from a “profest” into a “scenicke” poet, I would like to suggest another allegorical approach to the play. This will require us to look atAntony and Cleopatra, for the moment, with a view to its potent and enlivening anachronism.

    It is not...

  12. Appendix: Exemplary Front Matter
    (pp. 204-206)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 207-228)
  14. Index
    (pp. 229-236)