Nahum Tate Criticism - Essay

Wiltshire Stanton Austin and John Ralph (essay date 1853)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Austin, Wiltshire Stanton, and John Ralph. “Nahum Tate.” In The Lives of the Poets-Laureate: With an Introductory Essay on the Title and Office, pp. 196-222. London: Richard Bentley, 1853.

[In the following essay, Austin and Ralph offer an overview of Tate's life and literary career, suggesting that while his literary merit is limited, he has been misrepresented and deserves more respect than he has received.]

It is amusing, if not edifying, to observe the manner in which all works of general reference, save a very few, repeat in regular succession the idlest inventions, and the clumsiest distortions of fact. In literary history this is especially the case,...

(The entire section is 8268 words.)

Hazelton Spencer (essay date 1927)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Spencer, Hazelton. “Tate's Adaptations.” In Shakespeare Improved: The Restoration Versions in Quarto and on the Stage, pp. 241-73. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1927.

[In the following excerpt, Spencer presents an analysis of Tate's adaptations of Shakespeare, detailing how his versions of King Lear, Richard II, and Coriolanus differ from the originals.]


For half a century after the death of Sir William D'Avenant, every one of the poets laureate took a hand in improving Shakespeare. … The name of [Nahum Tate] lives in the hymnals. His treatment of Shakespeare's lines is even worse...

(The entire section is 9904 words.)

H. F. Scott-Thomas (essay date December 1934)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Scott-Thomas, H. F. “Nahum Tate and the Seventeenth Century.” ELH 1, no. 3 (December 1934): 250-75.

[In the following essay, Scott-Thomas argues that Tate's work clung to the Elizabethan past, that he struggled unsuccessfully to explore in his writings newer ideas and modes, and that his psychological and intellectual preoccupation with the past resulted in a superficial quality in his writing.]

The Restoration contains an appreciable quantity of literary expressions irreducible to the dominant forces at work in the epoch. … The Restoration is unable to forget the Renaissance. Not only does it preserve in its innermost self this...

(The entire section is 9352 words.)

Christopher Spencer (essay date winter 1963)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Spencer, Christopher. “A Word for Tate's King Lear.Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 3, no. 1 (winter 1963): 241-51.

[In the following essay, Spencer claims that Tate's King Lear should not be dismissed as hackery and a mutilation of Shakespeare's version, arguing that the play is coherent, entertaining, and has its own plan.]

In 1959 Kenneth Muir remarked of Tate's King Lear, “The beautiful scene in which the King of France receives the despised and rejected Cordelia is cut, presumably because there was no room for a rival to her affections. … [And Tate] provides a scene with Lear and Cordelia in prison, lest we should be...

(The entire section is 4035 words.)

James Black (essay date summer 1967)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Black, James. “The Influence of Hobbes on Nahum Tate's King Lear.Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 7, no. 3 (summer 1967): 377-85.

[In the following essay, Black examines the influence of the philosopher Thomas Hobbes on Tate as he was writing his King Lear, maintaining that Hobbesian ideas are seen most clearly in the character of Edmund.]

Nahum Tate's famous adaptation of Shakespeare's King Lear has recently been the object of renewed critical attention.1 Up to now, however, no one has commented upon the decided influence which the writings of Thomas Hobbes appear to have had upon Tate at the time2 when...

(The entire section is 3343 words.)

Peter L. Sharkey (essay date December 1968)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Sharkey, Peter L. “Performing Nahum Tate's King Lear: Coming Hither by Going Hence.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 54, no. 4 (December 1968): 398-403.

[In the following essay, Sharkey examines a 1967 staging of Tate's King Lear, revealing the influence of stage history on modern versions of Shakespeare's Lear.]

Producing Nahum Tate's seventeenth-century adaptation of Shakespeare's King Lear illustrates how much past stage history affects our modern view of Lear. Over the years popular tragedians of the English and American stages developed a declamatory acting style that was born of Tate's modifications, and their success...

(The entire section is 3382 words.)

Lawrence D. Green (essay date spring 1972)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Green, Lawrence D. “‘Where's My Fool?’—Some Consequences of the Omission of the Fool in Tate's Lear.Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 12, no. 2 (spring 1972): 259-74.

[In the following essay, Green argues that the omission of the Fool in Tate's King Lear resulted in more focus on the internal workings of Lear's mind, an element that has been retained in productions of Shakespeare's play.]

The major differences between Shakespeare's King Lear and Nahum Tate's redaction of it in 1681 are often viewed with either amusement or horror, and then dismissed as long-gone aberrations of little consequence. Tate's substitution of a...

(The entire section is 5852 words.)

Christopher Spencer (essay date 1972)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Spencer, Christopher. “Short Poems and Translations of Ovid and Juvenal” and “A Poem upon Tea.” In Nahum Tate, pp. 41-53; 141-45. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1972.

[In the following essay, Spencer discusses the two editions of Tate's Poems and his translations of Latin classics, which the critic says show that Tate was not particularly creative or original but had considerable talent for collaboration. The critic then examines Tate's mock-heroic poem, A Poem upon Tea, and offers a brief assessment of the author's place in English literary history.]


Of the...

(The entire section is 6151 words.)

Ruth McGugan (essay date 1987)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: McGugan, Ruth. Introduction to Nahum Tate and the Coriolanus Tradition in English Drama, with a Critical Edition of Tate's The Ingratitude of a Common-Wealth, pp. v-cvii. New York: Garland Publishing, 1987.

[In the following excerpt, McGugan comments on Tate's life and reputation, and discusses his adaptations and scholarly responses to his works.]


Perhaps the most striking similarity between Tate and Shakespeare is the paucity of intimate biographical details that historians can provide for either man. Official documents contain some vital statistics, and their publications testify to how they spent...

(The entire section is 7952 words.)

Timothy J. Viator (essay date 1988)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Viator, Timothy J. “Nahum Tate's Richard II.Theatre Notebook 42, no. 3 (1988): 109-17.

[In the following essay, Viator presents a stage history of Tate's Richard II, which he says reveals important facts about the monarchy's attitude toward the stage and censorship practices during the Restoration.]

The stage history of Nahum Tate's The History of King Richard the Second has long been improperly understood. According to The London Stage, the King's Company produced Tate's adaptation as The Sicilian Usurper in December 1680 and, after the censors banned it, as The Tyrant of Sicily in January 1681. Robert D. Hume...

(The entire section is 4537 words.)

Thomas G. Olsen (essay date summer 1998)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Olsen, Thomas G. “Apolitical Shakespeare; or, The Restoration Coriolanus.Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 38, no. 3 (summer 1998): 411-25.

[In the following essay, Olsen argues that Tate's Coriolanus is particularly important because it is representative of political and aesthetic tendencies on the Restoration stage.]

Several recent critical studies of Shakespeare's historical evolution into the figure Michael Dobson calls “the national poet” have considerably enriched our understanding of how Shakespearean adaptations functioned politically and culturally on the Restoration stage. Previously, and in the shadow of...

(The entire section is 6202 words.)

Sonia Massai (essay date summer 2000)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Massai, Sonia. “Nahum Tate's Revision of Shakespeare's King Lears.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 40, no. 3 (summer 2000): 435-50.

[In the following essay, Massai examines Tate's use of different versions of Shakespeare's King Lear in his revision of the play.]

In his 1975 edition of The History of King Lear (1681), James Black could still claim that Nahum Tate's notorious adaptation was “one of the most famous unread plays in English.”1 Since then, mainly as a result of an unprecedented interest in the afterlife of the Shakespearean text,2The History of King Lear has been studied both in...

(The entire section is 6533 words.)

C. B. Hardman (essay date October 2000)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Hardman, C. B. “‘Our Drooping Country Now Erects Her Head’: Nahum Tate's History of King Lear.Modern Language Review 95, no. 4 (October 2000): 913-23.

[In the following essay, Hardman examines the changes made by Tate to Edmund, Edgar, and Albany in King Lear, considering how Tate's audience might have responded to the characters in light of contemporary political events.]

It was once thought that ‘political considerations’ had ‘a minimum of direct effect’ on Tate's rewriting of King Lear.1 However, for some time now critics have attended to the play's contemporary political significance, placing it squarely in...

(The entire section is 5963 words.)

Deborah Payne Fisk and Jessica Munns (essay date spring 2002)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Fisk, Deborah Payne, and Jessica Munns. “‘Clamorous with War and Teeming with Empire’: Purcell and Tate's Dido and Aeneas.Eighteenth-Century Life 26, no. 2 (spring 2002): 23-44.

[In the following essay, Fisk and Munns explore issues of gender and imperialism, the costs of conquest, and the emotional experience of loss in Dido and Aeneas.]

Two notorious problems have beset Dido and Aeneas: assessing its possible political allusions and possible political meanings, and assigning a date for its premiere performance. Early in the last century, W. Barclay Squire argued that the epilogue pointed to the revolution of 1688.1 Other...

(The entire section is 8740 words.)