Shakespeare's Poetics : Aristotle and Anglo-Italian Renaissance Genres book cover
1st Edition

Shakespeare's Poetics
Aristotle and Anglo-Italian Renaissance Genres

ISBN 9780367667504
Published September 30, 2020 by Routledge
172 Pages

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Book Description

The startling central idea behind this study is that the rediscovery of Aristotle's Poetics in the sixteenth century ultimately had a profound impact on almost every aspect of Shakespeare's late plays”their sources, subject matter and thematic concerns. Shakespeare's Poetics reveals the generic complexity of Shakespeare's late plays to be informed by contemporary debates about the tonal and structural composition of tragicomedy. Author Sarah Dewar-Watson re-examines such plays as The Winter's Tale, Pericles and The Tempest in light of the important work of reception which was undertaken in Italy by pioneering theorists such as Giambattista Giraldi Cinthio (1504-73) and Giambattista Guarini (1538-1612). The author demonstrates ways in which these theoretical developments filtered from their intellectual base in Italy to the playhouses of early modern England via the work of dramatists such as Jonson and Fletcher. Dewar-Watson argues that the effect of this widespread revaluation of genre not only extends as far as Shakespeare, but that he takes a leading role in developing its possibilities on the English stage. In the course of pursuing this topic, Dewar-Watson also engages with several areas of current scholarly debate: the nature of Shakespeare's authorship; recent interest in and work on Shakespeare's later plays; and new critical work on Italian language-learning in Renaissance England. Finally, Shakespeare's Poetics develops current critical thinking about the place of Greek literature in Renaissance England, particularly in relation to Shakespeare.

Table of Contents


1. The Late Plays and their Genre

1.1 The First Folio, Shakespeare and Genre

1.2 Audiences and ‘Dramatic Competence’

1.3 Shakespeare and the Classics

2. Shakespeare and the Reception of the Poetics

2.1 Aristotle’s Poetics: A Brief Reception History

2.2 Cinthio

2.3 Fletcher and Guarini

3. Happy-Ending Tragedy

3.1 Tranquilla ultima

3.2 Tragicomedy: A Hybrid Genre

3.3 The Statue Scene and the Alcestis

4. Wonder and Empathy

4.1 Wonder and Spectacle

4.2 Wonder: Some Contemporary Contexts

4.3 Empathy and Audience Response

5. Shakespeare and Catharsis

5.1 Aristotle and the Critical Background

5.2 Catharsis and the English Stage

5.3 Purgation: Politics, Law, Penance

5.4 Cathartic Endings

6. The Odyssey and Island Romance

6.1 The Odyssey as Tragicomic Model

6.2 Shakespeare and the Odyssey

6.3 Literary Nostalgia and Textual Genealogies


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Sarah Dewar-Watson is Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield, UK.