Proteus Unmasked: Sixteenth-Century Rhetoric and the Art of Shakespeare

Proteus Unmasked: Sixteenth-Century Rhetoric and the Art of Shakespeare

Proteus Unmasked: Sixteenth-Century Rhetoric and the Art of Shakespeare

Proteus Unmasked: Sixteenth-Century Rhetoric and the Art of Shakespeare

Synopsis

"This study builds on previous scholarship on the relationship of Shakespeare to the rhetorical tradition. Its claims rest on two central, closely related premises, both of which are in one sense quite conventional, but in another much more radical. The first premise is that "rhetoric," in the primary sense of that term, "the art of using language so as to persuade or influence others," in the words of the OED, is the integrating principle behind the Renaissance revolution both in Italy and England, the essential element that holds tenuously together a universe threatening to lapse into incoherence and chaos. The second premise, dependent on the first, is that the heart and soul of the art of rhetoric lies in the principle of persuasion, that it is in persuasion rather than in precept that rhetoric has its essential being." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

The following study is neither a history of sixteenth-century rhetoric, nor a systematic survey of either terminology or taste, but an attempt to build on, rather than merely supplement, previous scholarship on the subject of the relationship of Shakespeare to the rhetorical tradition. Its thesis is multifaceted, and sufficiently expansive that some initial guidance, with an over-view of the whole, will be useful to the reader before plunging directly in medias res. the thesis is developed cumulatively over four chapters, each stage linked to the one preceding, moving from the general picture of the role of rhetoric in sixteenth-century English culture, through its contribution to the rise of Elizabethan drama, and culminating in its specific application to the interpretation of Shakespeare. Recognizing the thesis's challenge to critical orthodoxy, both traditional and contemporary, in all of these areas, its development proceeds with full discussion and deliberation at every stage, citing a broad range of sixteenth-century as well as Classical rhetorical materials to justify a radically subversive reinterpretation of their thrust.

The study's claims rest on two central and closely related premises, both of which are in one sense quite conventional, but in another much more radical. the first premise is that "rhetoric," in the primary sense of that term, "the art of using language so as to persuade or influence others," in the words of the oed, is the integrating principle behind the Renaissance revolution both in Italy and England, the essential element that holds tenuously together a universe threatening momentarily to lapse into incoherence and chaos. the second premise, depen-

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