English Literature during the Lifetime of Shakespeare

English Literature during the Lifetime of Shakespeare

English Literature during the Lifetime of Shakespeare

English Literature during the Lifetime of Shakespeare

Excerpt

The following pages attempt to tell once more, and as far as possible at first hand, the fascinating story of Elizabethan literature. But the tale has been somewhat compressed to treat what preceded the birth of Shakespeare with brevity, and what followed his death merely by indications and suggestions. This compression has seemed the more justifiable because Shakespeare's own work, thus contemplated in what surrounded it, gives to the subject a closer unity, and because the transition from literature, as an Elizabethan conceived and practised it, to what it came to be regarded in the time of Charles I, was well on its way by the year 1616.

This book departs in method from the customary arrangement of material by way of annals. It has neither listed authors in the order of their birth nor books in the chronology of their publication; but it has sought to view the subject in large by the recognition of a succession of literary movements, developments, and varieties in poetry, drama, and prose, at times identified with a great name, at others grouped merely because of subject-matter or likeness in origin or purpose. It is believed that the reader can experience no greater difficulty in seeking for Jonson, for example, in half a dozen chapters, than he might undergo in an effort to trace, let us say, the pastoral form of poetry through the scattered annals of a score of poets, ordered with chronological precision. It is the writer's conviction that until the history of literature cuts loose from the tyranny of biography, as history at large has long since cut loose, little progress can be made toward the realization of the higher aims of literary study. These he believes to consist less in the acquisition of a mass of information -- however desirable information may be -- about books, authors, and borrowings, about style and the bare bones of plays, than in the recognition of those unseen influences, literary and other, by which even the greatest man becomes . . .

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