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Spenser and Shakespeare

Thirteen writers have comprehensively explained the Renaissance scheme of physiology-psychology used for nosce teipsum, to ‘know oneself’, and other scholars have analysed key features like humours, bodily spirits, passions, reason, inner wits, soul and spirit, mystic apprehension. Only poets with epic scope, like Spenser and Shakespeare, depict human nature holistically, yet these finest poets have radically distinct psychologies. Spenser’s Christianised Platonism prioritises the soul, his art mirroring divine Creation as dogmatically and encyclopedically conceived. He looks to the past, collating classical and medieval authorities in memory-devices like the figurative house, nobly ordered in triadic mystic numerical hierarchy to reform the ruins of time. Shakespeare’s sophisticated Aristoteleanism prioritises the body, highlighting physical processes and dynamic feelings of immediate experience, and subjecting them to intense, skeptical consciousness. He points to the future, using the witty ironies of popular stage productions to test and deconstruct prior authority, opening the unconscious to psychoanalysis. This polarity of psychologies is radical and profound, resembling the complementary theories of physics, structuring reality either (like Spenser) in the neatly-contained form of particle theory, or (like Shakespeare) in the rhythmic cycles of wave theory. How do we explain these distinct concepts, and how are they related? These poets’ contrary artistry appears in strikingly different versions of a ‘fairy queen’, of humour-based passions (notably the primal passion of self-love), of intellection (divergent modes of temptation and of moral resolution), of immortal soul and spirit, of holistic plot design, and of readiness for final judgment.

Attractive opposites

This book brings together ten chapters on the relations between Spenser and Shakespeare. There has been much noteworthy work on the linguistic borrowings of Shakespeare from Spenser, but the subject has never before been treated systematically, and the linguistic borrowings lead to broader-scale borrowings and influences, which are treated here. An additional feature of the book is that a large bibliography of previous work is offered, which will be of the greatest help to those who follow up the opportunities offered by this collection. The book presents new approaches, heralding a resurgence of interest in the relations between two of the greatest Renaissance English poets to a wider scholarly group and in a more systematic manner than before. This will be of interest to students and academics interested in Renaissance literature.

An archaeology of Elizabethan Ireland

This book examines life in the leading province of Elizabeth I's nascent empire. It shows how an Ireland of colonising English farmers and displaced Irish ‘savages’ were ruled by an imported Protestant elite from their fortified manors and medieval castles. The book displays how a generation of English ‘adventurers’ including such influential intellectual and political figures as Spenser and Ralegh, tried to create a new kind of England, one that gave full opportunity to their Renaissance tastes and ambitions. Based on decades of research, it details how archaeology had revealed the traces of a short-lived, but significant, culture that has, until now, been eclipsed in ideological conflicts between Tudor queens, Hapsburg hegemony and native Irish traditions.

Editor: Peter Redford

The Burley manuscript is a miscellany compiled by William Parkhurst in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century, unique in its size – over six hundred items inscribed on nearly four hundred folios – and its variety: poems and letters, essays and aphorisms, speeches, satires and sententiae, mostly in English but including Latin, Italian, French and Spanish. In this study, annotated transcriptions are given of all of the private letters in English, including those that are translations from those of the fourth-century Roman patrician Q. Aurelius Symmachus, and all the English verse. Incipit transcriptions and identification are provided for each of the other items, including those in foreign languages. The history and provenance of the collection are described in detail, with lengthy notes on memorial transcription of verse and prose, and the clandestine interception of letters. The book makes available, in a readily searchable form, texts, annotations and commentary that will have an impact on a wide range of scholarship. It will not only act as a guide to one of the English Renaissance’s most prized miscellanies, but also be found useful in a wide range of studies, illuminating such diverse subjects as, for example, the circulation of verse, the correspondence of John Donne (particularly with Henry Wotton and Henry Goodere), the self-fashioning of English gentlemen after the classical Romans of their class, and the government’s paranoiac spying on its own citizens. Literary scholars and editors, and social historians, may here draw on a deep well of contemporary writing, not readily available hitherto.