1st Edition

Shakespeare and the Versification of English Drama, 1561-1642

ISBN 9781472430281
Published September 25, 2014 by Routledge
424 Pages

USD $160.00

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Book Description

Surveying the development and varieties of blank verse in the English playhouses, this book is a natural history of iambic pentameter in English. The main aim of the book is to analyze the evolution of Renaissance dramatic poetry. Shakespeare is the central figure of the research, but his predecessors, contemporaries and followers are also important: Shakespeare, the author argues, can be fully understood and appreciated only against the background of the whole period. Tarlinskaja surveys English plays by Elizabethan, Jacobean and Caroline playwrights, from Norton and Sackville’s Gorboduc to Sirley’s The Cardinal. Her analysis takes in such topics as what poets treated as a syllable in the 16th-17th century metrical verse, the particulars of stressing in iambic pentameter texts, word boundary and syntactic segmentation of verse lines, their morphological and syntactic composition, syllabic, accentual and syntactic features of line endings, and the way Elizabethan poets learned to use verse form to enhance meaning. She uses statistics to explore the attribution of questionable Elizabethan and Jacobean plays, and to examine several still-enigmatic texts and collaborations. Among these are the poem A Lover's Complaint, the anonymous tragedy Arden of Faversham, the challenging Sir Thomas More, the later Jacobean comedy The Spanish Gypsy, as well as a number of Shakespeare’s co-authored plays. Her analysis of versification offers new ways to think about the dating of plays, attribution of anonymous texts, and how collaborators divided their task in co-authored dramas.

Table of Contents

1 Why Study Versification? Versification Analysis; Tests

2 How It All Began: From Surrey's Aeneid to Marlowe's Tamburlaine

3 Early Elizabethan Playwrights: Kyd, Marlowe, Greene, Peele, Early Shakespeare. 2, 3 Henry VI and Arden of Faversham

4 Shakespeare's Versification: Evolution. Co-Authored Plays. The Poem A Lover's Complaint

5 Jacobean and Caroline Playwrights: From Shakespeare to Shirley

6 Conclusions: Shakespeare and Versification, 1540s - 1640s

Appendix A: Verse Form and Meaning: Rhythmical Italics

Appendix B: General Tables B.1 - B.16

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Marina Tarlinskaja is Research Professor of Linguistics at the University of Washington, USA.


'Tarlinskaja has long been recognized as the world's authority on Shakespeare's versification. Providing a thorough history of iambic pentameter in and around the commercial theaters of early modern England, her book illuminates Shakespeare's achievement by locating him within the rhythmic environments of his day. The breadth and depth of this book are remarkable: from the sixteenth century through the closing of the theaters, all of the major playwrights come in for examination; statistical figures for their works are assembled in a central table. The result is likely to help revive the study of Shakespeare's versification even as it adds to our understanding of how, and when, his contemporaries wrote their plays." --Douglas Bruster, University of Texas, Austin, USA

"An important scholarly work that will be read for years to come." --Brian Vickers, Books of the Year 2014, Times Literary Supplement

'This book offers (among other things) an extraordinary wealth of information on (and discussion of) the distribution of lexical stress and syntactic breaks in the iambic pentameter of Renaissance English drama: there are just under a hundred pages of statistical tables alone. This makes it an invaluable resource not only for attribution research but also for studies of the development and chronology of individual poets." --Review of English Studies

"A remarkable study, the book includes a considerable amount of statistical data which are valuable not only for this book, but also to future researchers." --Studia Metrica et Poetica

"Beyond attribution, [Tarlinskaja's] findings will intrigue those whose interests are more literary critical and theoretical, here she thoroughly contextualizes Shakespeare's own versification alongside that of his predecessors and peers." --Times Literary Supplement

"[Shakespeare and the Versification of English Drama] differs from her previous landmark books in that it directly tackles more than twenty of the knottiest authorship questions from the period…SVED offers a trove of twenty-odd new verdicts." --Ward Elliott, Claremont McKenna College (emeritus), Modern Philology