The Development of Shakespeare's Imagery

The Development of Shakespeare's Imagery

The Development of Shakespeare's Imagery

The Development of Shakespeare's Imagery

Excerpt

It is an honour to be asked to write a brief preface to this book, and a happiness to see the proofs of it lying before me, since they ensure that a critic whom I have long admired and learnt from will now at last be accessible to English readers unfamiliar with the German language and especially to students in our universities, who, amid the babble of tongues about Shakespeare, need to be "put through" to all the sane voices on the air.

Twenty years ago Caroline Spurgeon began reading papers in London which first set some of us thinking about imagery in Shakespeare, and in 1935 she published her completed results in Shakespeare's Imagery and what it tells us. At the same time, as it happened, I had independently been driven to investigate a corner of the subject for the preparation of an edition of Hamlet, in which the dramatic effects of imagery and its twin, the quibble, were too obvious to be overlooked. Miss Spurgeon had much to say that was interesting, but little to help one with this aspect of the matter. I felt, too, that her statistical method, correct and indeed essential in a bibliographical or other scientific inquiry, was ill-suited, if not at times definitely misleading, when applied to a work of art, useful to some extent as her collections might be as demonstrating what images frequently occurred in any given play. Still less was I persuaded by her attempt to deduce Shakespeare's personal propensities from these collections: I even remained unconvinced that he detested dogs! Anyone who writes constantly knows how a metaphor, perhaps first picked up from another writer (as many of Shakespeare's were), and entirely unconnected with his own interests, may grow upon him and become a habit of mind. And then, two or three years later Shakespeare's Bilder, of which the following book is a revised and augmented English version, came to my hands and satisfied the appetite that Miss Spurgeon had aroused. I owe my knowledge of it to an enthusiastic letter from Sir Arnold Wilson, who was killed flying over . . .

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