William Shakespeare Poetry: British Analysis
One of William Shakespeare’s great advantages as a writer was that, as a dramatist working in the public theater, he was afforded a degree of autonomy from the cultural dominance of the court, his age’s most powerful institution. All over Europe, even if belatedly in England, the courts of the Renaissance nation-states conducted an intense campaign to use the arts to further their power. The theater, despite its partial dependency on court favor, achieved through its material products (the script and the performance) a relative autonomy in comparison with the central court arts of poetry, prose fiction, and the propagandistic masque. When Shakespeare briefly turned to Ovidian romance in the 1590’s and, belatedly, probably also in the 1590’s, to the fashion for sonnets, he moved closer to the cultural and literary dominance of the court’s taste—to the fashionable modes of Ovid, Petrarch, and Neoplatonism—and to the need for patronage. Although the power of the sonnets goes far beyond their sociocultural roots, Shakespeare nevertheless adopts the culturally inferior role of the petitioner for favor, and there is an undercurrent of social and economic powerlessness in the sonnets, especially when a rival poet seems likely to supplant the poet. In short, Shakespeare’s nondramatic poems grow out of and articulate the strains of the 1590’s, when, like many ambitious writers and intellectuals on the fringe of the court, Shakespeare clearly needed to find a...
(The entire section is 4513 words.)
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