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

Shakespeare's Poetics

Aristotle and Anglo-Italian Renaissance Genres, 1st Edition

By Sarah Dewar-Watson


162 pages

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Hardback: 9781409406396
pub: 2017-09-21
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315608761
pub: 2017-09-18
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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


About the Author

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

About the Series

Anglo-Italian Renaissance Studies

Anglo-Italian Renaissance Studies
This series places early modern English drama within the context of the European Renaissance and, more specifically, within the context of Italian cultural, dramatic, and literary traditions, with reference to the impact and influence of both classical and contemporary culture. Among the various forms of influence, the series considers early modern Italian novellas, theatre, and discourses as direct or indirect sources, analogues and paralogues for the construction of Shakespeare's drama, particularly in the comedies, romances, and other Italianate plays. Critical analysis focusing on other cultural transactions, such as travel and courtesy books, the arts, fencing, dancing, and fashion, will also be encompassed within the scope of the series. Special attention is paid to the manner in which early modern English dramatists adapted Italian materials to suit their theatrical agendas, creating new forms, and stretching the Renaissance practice of contaminatio to achieve, even if unconsciously, a process of rewriting, remaking, and refashioning of 'alien' cultures. The series welcomes both single-author studies and collections of essays and invites proposals that take into account the transition of cultures between the two countries as a bilateral process, paying attention also to the penetration of early modern English culture into the Italian world.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
DRAMA / Shakespeare
LITERARY CRITICISM / European / Italian