This book examines the 'anthology period' in Shakespeare's career to demonstrate how these texts used the practice of commonplacing to situate his works into a canon of English poetry. Considering what early anthologies made of Shakespeare, and what he made of being anthologized, leads to new readings of his poems and plays.
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Between 1599 and 1601, no fewer than five anthologies appeared in print with extracts from Shakespeare's works. Some featured whole poems, while others chose short passages from his poems and plays, gathered alongside lines on similar topics by his rivals and contemporaries. Appearing midway through his career, these anthologies marked a critical moment in Shakespeare's life. They testify to the reputation he had established as a poet and playwright by the end of the sixteenth century. In extracting passages from their contexts, though, they also read Shakespeare in ways that he might have imagined being read. After all, this was how early modern readers were taught to treat the texts they read, selecting choice excerpts and copying them into their notebooks.
Taking its cue from these anthologies, Anthologizing Shakespeare, 1593-1603 offers new readings of the formative works of Shakespeare's first decade in print, from Venus and Adonis (1593) to Hamlet (1603). It illuminates a previously neglected period in Shakespeare's career, what it calls his 'anthology period'. It investigates what these anthologies made of Shakespeare, and what he made of being anthologized. And it shows how, from the early 1590s, his works were inflected by the culture of commonplacing and anthologizing in which they were written, and in which Shakespeare, no less than his readers, was schooled.
In this book, Ted Tregear explores how Shakespeare appealed to the reading habits of his contemporaries, inviting and frustrating them in turn. Shakespeare, he argues, used the practice of anthologizing to open up questions at the heart of his poems and plays: questions of classical literature and the schoolrooms in which it was taught; of English poetry and its literary inheritance; of poetry's relationship with drama; and of the afterlife he and his works might win—at least in parts.