Shakespeare and the Rhetoricians

Shakespeare and the Rhetoricians

Shakespeare and the Rhetoricians

Shakespeare and the Rhetoricians

Excerpt

This book explores the ways in which a particular view of language in the sixteenth century can be seen to entail a view of literature. Its argument is philosophical in nature and consists of a series of logical steps, each one dependent upon the one that comes before. My central concern has been to articulate the steps of that argument and to make its structures clear. To that end I have made certain unorthodox decisions: to quote selectively the ancient theory, to refer but seldom to modern authorities and then only as a means of clarifying a point I wish to make, to state controversial opinions without the support of elaborate argumentation. To the same end my analysis of Shakespeare's plays is restricted as to choice and brief, meant only to suggest the ways in which the aesthetic theory I have elaborated might be applied.

The reader should be warned that this book does not purport to examine the various sources of Shakespeare's dramaturgy nor to root the growth of that dramaturgy in those sources. I have not discussed yet once more the Terentian tradition nor Fulgens and Lucres nor the earlier mummings of Lydgate. For those interested in the importance of this early material there exist already many books, among them the well-known work of Madeleine Doran, Leo Salingar, and most recently Joel B. Altman. The analysis of relationships between early literary theory and practice that I found most helpful is that in a doctoral thesis by G. K. Hunter, unfortunately never published. I too wrote a thesis on the subject, which can be consulted by those who find my views here too bare.

My own feeling is that relationships between critical precept and literary practice are by nature necessarily theoretical, and my concern because of that has been with establishing the coherence of one . . .

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