Visions and Revisions: Recent Shakespeare Publications
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Review Articles Visions and Revisions: Recent Shakespeare Publications G.P. JONES S. Viswanathan. The Shakespeare Playas Poem: A Critical Tradition in Perspective Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1980. 236. $29.50 Kenneth Muir. Shakespeare's Sonnets London: George Allen & Unwin '980. '79. $22.50 Steven Urkowitz. Shakespeare's Revision of 'King Lear' Princeton: Princeton University Press 1980· '70. $13·50 Kenneth Muir, editor. Shakespeare Survey: An Annual Survey of Shakespearian Study and Production. Volume 33 Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1980. 217. $39.50 Norman Rabkin. Shakespeare and the Problem of Meaning Chicago: University of Chicago Press 19B1. 165. $16.00 Larry S. Champion. Perspective in Shakespeare 's English Histories Athens: University of Georgia Press 1980. 226. $16.00 Charles Frey. Shakespeare's Vast Romance: A Study of 'The Winter's Tale' Columbia: University of Missouri Press 1980. '74· $15·95 Martin Scofield. The Ghosts of 'Hamiel': The Play and Modern Writers Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1980. 202. $39.50 The last giant of Romantic Shakespeare interpretation, and one of the most influential shapers of the modern vision of the Shakespearean playas dramatic poem, George Wilson Knight is out of fashion at present. From generation to generation Qllr amour propre requires that we dismiss our giants once we have possessed ourselves of their wisdom. But Wilson Knight is a rather tough giant, whose massive vitality drives himstill to lecture platform and printinghouse in the Shakespeare cause. Knight's achievement is the centrepiece of S. Viswanathan's The Shakespeare Playas Poem, which chronicles the rise of the poetic school of Shakespeare interpretation. A chapter is devoted to the moral and political 'thematics' of L.c. Knights. Another appraises sympathetically the image studies of Caroline UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY, VOLUME 52, NUMBER 1, FALL 1982 0042-02471 8211000-0106-0114$00.0010 IC UNrvBRSITY OF TORONTO PRESS SHAKESPEARE CRITICISM 107 Spurgeon. It is Wilson Knight, however, who receives most of Viswanathan's attention, for it is Knight who has been largely responsible for crystallizing the modem apprehension of the Shakespeare playas an integrated expression of 'the logic of the imagination.' It was Wilson Knight who insisted that, while the spectator's experience of the play is sequential, the creative vision and the critical effort are not limited to that sequentiaIity. Grasping the plays whole and simultaneously, extending in space 'like a map or unrolled tapestry,' his prime achievement, in the view of Viswanathan, 'is to have used the spatial mode of approach to show how the "latent" content of drama, comprising imagery, symbols, and thematic suggestions, reinforces or modifies the "manifest" content of plot, character and situation.' As well as precipitating new critical procedures Knight also formulated influential readings. He offered new insights into the major tragedies; he helped rehabilitate undervalued plays such as Troilus and Cressida, Coriolanus, Measurefor Measure, and Timon ofAthens; he expanded our awareness of the importance of the romances. The play-as-poem vision is currently out of critical favour; but there is a further reason why Knight is not more highly regarded nowadays. His very success has militated against recognition. His insights have been so fully assimilated into the common stock ofreceived ideas that they have lost their individual identity. Just as we are all the heirs of Bradley, who is now coming back into fashion, so we are all the inheritors ofWilson Knight, who has passed out of fashion for the time being. It would be idle to pretend that Knighfs vision is unflawed. Contemporary scholarship has grumbled about his inattention to historical research, his impressionism, hisidealism, hisideologicalhobbyhorses, his neglectofqualitative discriminations within the canon, and so on. Such caveats qualify, but they do not invalidate, the vision which has stamped itself indelibly on the critical sensibility of the twentieth century. Like Viswanathan's, Kenneth Muir's book is reftospective. Shakespeare's Sonnets is the study of a scholar whose strengths are the antithesis of Wilson Knighfs. Characteristic of Muir's scholarship is his surefooted movement through such notorious swamps as Thorpe's dedication, the dating of the sonnets, the ordering of the sequence, and the identities of the dramatis personae. His conclusions are cautious: W.H. of Thorpe's confused dedication is the Fair Youth himself, the dating is...