JUDITH H. ANDERSON AND JENNIFER C. VAUGHT
Shakespeare and Donne: Generic Hybrids and the Cultural Imaginary is a collection of essays that focus on textual and contextual intersections between these early modern writers. Although Shakespeare and Donne were both Londoners and nearly exact contemporaries, the one a poet-playwright and the other a poet-priest, just a single book, Anita Gilman Sherman’s Skepticism and Memory in Shakespeare and Donne (2007) has recently centered on them.1 In more than fifty years, the only predecessor of Sherman’s book has been Patrick Crutwell’s Shakespearean Moment and Its Place in the Poetry of the 17th Century (1954), and it is so despite its title, which signals a primary focus on Shakespeare.2 A number of thematic books on poetics, inwardness, death, politics, religion, melancholy, and even science in recent decades have included separate chapters on Donne and on Shakespeare and in this way have indicated their mutual pertinence, but the primary interest of these studies has been thematic, regardless of whether to some extent also formal, historical, or cultural, and, on the whole, they have not offered sustained attention to relations or comparisons between the two writers. While thus contiguous, the writings of the two have remained nonetheless separate, their mutual relevance more incidental than important and focal.
The basic premise of the present volume is that comparative exploration of the various writings of Shakespeare and Donne can be illuminating, offering fresh insight both into these and into the culture they reflect and engage. The youthful Donne was noted to be “a great frequenter of Playes,” and years later, while he was dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, his daughter Constance married Edward Alleyn, the actor, theatrical entrepreneur, and founder of Dulwich College, who was known for his performance of Marlovian roles as the “‘Roscius of his Age.’”3 Such a marriage suggests