An Introduction to Shakespeare's Poems by Peter Hyland

By Peter Hyland

An advent to Shakespeare's Poems presents a full of life and expert exam of Shakespeare's non-dramatic poetry: the narrative poems Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece; the Sonnets; and numerous minor poems, together with a few only in the near past attributed to Shakespeare. Peter Hyland locates Shakespeare as a sceptical voice in the turbulent social context during which Elizabethan expert poets needed to paintings, and relates his poems to the tastes, values and political pressures of his time. Hyland additionally explores how Shakespeare's poetry may be of curiosity to twenty-first century readers.

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Extra resources for An Introduction to Shakespeare's Poems

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In 1592, when the playhouses were closed, Shakespeare must have been somewhat oppressed by the need to seek an income elsewhere. Southampton was a brilliant young man who encouraged a number of writers and scholars; he is known to have given support to Barnabe Barnes, Gervase Markham, Samuel Daniel and Thomas Nashe, and without doubt there were others. It is possible that some of Shakespeare’s sonnets were already circulating in manuscript, and his plays were gaining him a reputation, as we know from Greene’s attack on him.

Although these lines are part of a slightly longer speech, they constitute a sonnet: Biron expresses his renunciation of literary artifice in one of the most elaborately artificial of verse forms. There are other blatant rhetorical devices – the self-conscious patterning of the first four lines, the linguistic affectation, the Petrarchan cliché of the white hand. Biron claims to recognize them as a disease, yet he is unable to cure himself of them. At best, we can take from the treatment of the four young aristocrats the idea that an interest in poetry is a sign of an immature and incomplete approach to life.

If the connection lasted for any number of years (as must have been the case if Southampton really was the youth of the Sonnets, but there is no other evidence of it) it would have been a risky one, for in 1598 Southampton married Elizabeth Vernon, cousin of the Earl of Essex, thus incurring the wrath of Queen Elizabeth. Three years later he was implicated in Essex’s doomed rebellion against the queen, and was sentenced to death. This was commuted to life imprisonment, and he was released when James I came to the throne in 1603.

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