Between Nations: Shakespeare, Spenser, Marvell, and the Question of Britain

Synopsis

Fusing historiography with literary criticism, Between Nations produces an array of unexpected readings of early modern texts. Starting from the premise that England has never been able to emerge or define itself in isolation from its neighbors on the British Isles, this book places Renaissance England and its literature at a meeting of English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh histories. It ranges from the late sixteenth through the late seventeenth centuries and deals with the "reigns" of three monarchs and one regicide - those of Elizabeth I, James I, Charles II, and Oliver Cromwell. However, it shifts the domain they ruled from the customary center into interactions between England and the other British polities. The author argues that England was able to develop into what we call a "nation" only in and by means of its relations with the other proto-"nations" that it was often also suppressing. Among the authors who served one or more of the four English rulers are Shakespeare, Spenser, and Marvell, who are studied here in the way they responded to the complexities of British history that encompassed their "nation". They not only participated in nation building/destroying, but their works are shown often to be meditations on that process and their own roles in the process.