Rethinking Shakespeare’s Skepticism
The Aesthetics of Doubt in the Sonnets and Plays
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: Duquesne University Press
Title Page, About the Series, Copyright, Dedication
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The story of this project reflects the kind of organic processes I have identified in the works of Shakespeare. My first foray into the canker and the rose was in a 2005 seminar on Shakespeare’s sonnets, taught by Theodore Leinwand at the University of Maryland. With his continued support, and under the extraordinary direction...
Introduction: Rethinking Shakespeare’s Skepticism
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Continuing in the tradition of Stanley Cavell’s Disowning Knowledge and Graham Bradshaw’s Shakespeare’s Scepticism (both published in 1987) are many compelling studies on the intersections between Shakespeare’s plays and early modern epistemology.1 Scholars have been especially drawn to the tragedies, finding that...
1. The Roots of Shakespeare’s Epideictic Skepticism
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The long-standing debate over the mysterious dedicatee of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, “Mr. W.H.,” the “ONLIE.BEGETTER,” inevitably leads to questions about the man to whom the first 126 poems are addressed and about the exuberant, worldly-wise lady who seems his polar opposite.1 But scholars remain to this day uncertain about...
2. Tragic Discovery in the Young-Man Sonnets
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All of the features of Shakespeare’s epideictic skepticism—his struggles with innovation, his isolating doubt, and his impulse to inquire—meet in the dual figures of the rose and the canker. The rose has long been a symbol of eternal beauty, praise, and divine perfection and, appearing in the first poem of...
3. The Wonder-Wounded Hearers in Hamlet
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Hamlet has long been identified as a vital window into early modern doubt and a defining moment in intellectual and literary history. With its vigorous interrogation of some of the most contested religious, political, and social issues of the Renaissance era, the play has stimulated a tremendous amount of critical attention to...
4. Comic Re-Creation in the Dark-Lady Sonnets and The Taming of the Shrew
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The poet’s examination of praise, his skepticism about the male friend, his suffering and self-doubt, and finally, his acknowledgment of the canker within himself, all point to the tragic dimension of Shakespeare’s young-man sequence. Although he does not endure physical death like Hamlet, Macbeth, or King Lear, the poet...
Afterword: Cleopatra’s Epideictic Imagination
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If The Taming of the Shrew compensates for the limitations in the dark-lady sonnets by imagining an alternative relationship between the male artist and his female creation, Antony and Cleopatra reflects on the central issues of both sequences and so provides a fitting conclusion to my study of Shakespeare’s epideictic...
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Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Medieval & Renaissance Literary Studies