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An Essay in Comparison: Shakespeare’s Technical Inventiveness in the Light of George Puttenham’s Arte

Catherine Lisak
p. 125-141

Résumé

George Puttenham is often quoted by critics, especially in such fields as the study of court life, politics and literature, but to date very little has been done concerning the probable relation that exists between his Arte and Shakespeare’s own work, a study in comparison which yet deserves more serious investigation than has hitherto been undertaken. The manner in which Shakespeare would have made use of the critique’s analyses in The Arte of English Poesie, first published in 1589, with which the playwright and poet was most familiar, remains open to question, though it is often taken for granted. Yet his handling of this manual becomes clearly apparent as one observes how Shakespeare, when inserting within his own dramatic lines, figures of speech described and defined in The Arte, applies the rules set out in the manual, at times in parodied form, abides by a same word order, opts for the exact same images or illustrative examples as found in the section of The Arte under scrutiny of his own pen as dramatist and poet. As Shakespeare puts to use these rhetorical figures, it even transpires that he is showing off his prowess as a good, clever, and amused reader of the manual. The purpose of this study would not be to enumerate, in form of a static cataloguing of statistics, the similarities that one might encounter between both works, but rather to analyse the ways in which Shakespeare’s mimicry goes beyond a simple application of the rules of versification and rhetoric set down in The Arte. In effect, Shakespeare seems to be stretching the initial text to its limits, applying to it twists and turns, toying with the plasticity of its form, and in the process, offering, in ironic yet admirative tribute to Puttenham’s own work, elements of insight into his own mode of composition, which the well-read spectator or reader-to-follow would have been receptive to.

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Catherine Lisak, « An Essay in Comparison: Shakespeare’s Technical Inventiveness in the Light of George Puttenham’s Arte », Actes des congrès de la Société française Shakespeare, 20 | 2002, 125-141.

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Catherine Lisak, « An Essay in Comparison: Shakespeare’s Technical Inventiveness in the Light of George Puttenham’s Arte », Actes des congrès de la Société française Shakespeare [En ligne], 20 | 2002, mis en ligne le 01 novembre 2007, consulté le 24 mai 2022. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/shakespeare/800 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/shakespeare.800

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Catherine Lisak

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