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The Cambridge Introduction to Shakespeare's Poetry


  • Page extent: 176 pages
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521705073)

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The Cambridge Introduction to Shakespeare's Poetry
Cambridge University Press
9780521879415 - The Cambridge Introduction to Shakespeare's Poetry - By Michael Schoenfeldt

The Cambridge Introduction to Shakespeare's Poetry

Shakespeare's poems were enormously popular in his lifetime, but, aside from the enduring appeal of the Sonnets, are today much less familiar than his plays. This Introduction celebrates the achievement of Shakespeare as a poet, providing students with ways of understanding and enjoying his remarkable poems. It honors the aesthetic and intellectual complexity of the poems without making them seem unapproachably complicated, outlining their exquisite pleasures and absorbing enigmas. Schoenfeldt suggests that today's readers are better able to analyze aspects of the poems that were formerly ignored or the source of scandal – the articulation of a fervent same-sex love, for example, or the incipient racism inherent in a hierarchy of light and dark. By engaging closely with Shakespeare's major poems – Venus and Adonis, Lucrece, “The Phoenix and Turtle,” and the Sonnets and A Lover's Complaint – the Introduction demonstrates how much these extraordinary poems still have to say to us.

Michael Schoenfeldt is Professor of English at the University of Michigan. He is the author of Bodies and Selves in Early Modern England: Physiology and Inwardness in Spenser, Shakespeare, Herbert, and Milton and Prayer and Power: George Herbert and Renaissance Courtship, and he has contributed to publications including A Companion to Shakespeare's Sonnets and Imagining Death in Shakespeare and Milton.

The Cambridge Introduction to Shakespeare's Poetry

Michael Schoenfeldt

Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo, Delhi, Dubai, Tokyo, Mexico City

Cambridge University Press
The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 8RU, UK

Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York
Information on this title:

© Michael Schoenfeldt 2010

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2010

Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge

A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library

Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data

Schoenfeldt, Michael Carl.
The Cambridge introduction to Shakespeare's poetry / Michael Schoenfeldt.
p. cm. – (Cambridge introductions to literature)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-521-87941-5 – ISBN 978-0-521-70507-3 (pbk.)
1. Shakespeare, William, 1564–1616 – Poetic works. 2. Narrative poetry,
English – History and criticism. 3. Shakespeare, William, 1564–1616. Sonnets.
4. Sonnets, English – History and criticism. I. Title.
PR2984.S36 2010
821′.3 – dc22 2010029489

ISBN 978-0-521-87941-5 Hardback
ISBN 978-0-521-70507-3 Paperback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.


Chapter 1     Shakespeare and English poetry
Versification and meter
Shakespeare and early modern poetry
Chapter 2     Shakespeare's banquet of sense: Venus and Adonis
Carnal and verbal pleasure
Wordplay and foreplay
Love and lust
The death of Adonis and the birth of erotic unhappiness
Chapter 3     Constraint and complaint in Lucrece
Tarquin and predatory lust
Lucrece: resistance and complaint
Founding the Roman republic
Chapter 4     Mysteries of the Sonnets: Dedication, publication, sequence, characters
Publication and dedication
The temptations of autobiography and sequence
Characters and reception
Chapter 5     Time and mortality in the Sonnets
Time and progeny
Time and poetry
Time and love
Time and the afterlife
Chapter 6     Friendship and love, darkness and lust: Desire in the Sonnets
The master-mistress: Sonnet 20
The marriage of true minds: Sonnet 116
Olympian restraint: Sonnet 94
The Dark Lady
Love and appetite
Love and disease
Chapter 7     Solitary and mutual flames: A Lover's Complaint and “The Phoenix and Turtle”
A Lover's Complaint
“The Phoenix and Turtle”
Chapter 8     Fantasies of Shakespearean authorship
The Passionate Pilgrim
John Benson, editor
Occasional verse
Passionate pilgrims: “Shall I die?” and the Funeral Elegy
Further reading


Because I have lived with this book for a long time, it demanded the patient cooperation of my closest relationships. I would like to thank Leslie Atzmon for indulging my obsession with Shakespeare's poetry, and for teaching me something about its ostensible subject of love. It is a pleasure to dedicate this book to her. I would like to thank as well Ben and Aaron, who have grown up tolerating their father's frequently tedious disquisitions on various early modern writers even as they reminded me that there were many other aspects of life that were well worth attending to.

Both Niels Herold and Valerie Traub took time from their own wonderful work on Shakespeare to apply critical pressure to the chapters on the Sonnets. Patrick Cheney read the entire manuscript with his characteristic rigor and unmatched generosity; his comments saved me from a hundred embarrassing mistakes in the process. Sarah Stanton was the kind of editor everyone hopes for, eminently patient and deeply intelligent even when gently prodding.

The remarkable early modern community at Michigan is an unremitting source of intellectual stimulation and emotional support. I would like to thank all the members of the English 450 class on the poetry of Shakespeare; their pointed questions and unique voices infuse this book. The graduate students at Michigan provide a remarkably vibrant and nurturing community punctuated by individual brilliance. Andrew Bozio deserves special notice for his painstaking work on the manuscript and index of this book, as well as for helping me think through several important issues of Shakespeare's poetry. It is a privilege to teach at a place that continues to attract such wonderful students.

Cambridge Introductions to Literature


Margaret Atwood Heidi Macpherson

Jane Austen Janet Todd

Samuel Beckett Ronan McDonald

Walter Benjamin David Ferris

Chekhov James N. Loehlin

J. M. Coetzee Dominic Head

Samuel Taylor Coleridge John Worthen

Joseph Conrad John Peters

Jacques Derrida Leslie Hill

Charles Dickens Jon Mee

Emily Dickinson Wendy Martin

George Eliot Nancy Henry

T. S. Eliot John Xiros Cooper

William Faulkner Theresa M. Towner

F. Scott Fitzgerald Kirk Curnutt

Michel Foucault Lisa Downing

Robert Frost Robert Faggen

Nathaniel Hawthorne Leland S. Person

Zora Neale Hurston Lovalerie King

James Joyce Eric Bulson

Herman Melville Kevin J. Hayes

Sylvia Plath Jo Gill

Edgar Allen Poe Benjamin F. Fisher

Ezra Pound Ira Nadel

Jean Rhys Elaine Savory

Edward Said Conor McCarthy

Shakespeare Emma Smith

Shakespeare's Comedies Penny Gay

Shakespeare's History Plays Warren Chernaik

Shakespeare's Poetry Michael Schoenfeldt

Shakespeare's Tragedies Janette Dillon

Harriet Beecher Stowe Sarah Robbins

Mark Twain Peter Messent

Edith Wharton Pamela Knights

Walt Whitman M. Jimmie Killingsworth

Virginia Woolf Jane Goldman

William Wordsworth Emma Mason

W. B. Yeats David Holdeman


The American Short Story Martin Scofield

Comedy Eric Weitz

Creative Writing David Morley

Early English Theatre Janette Dillon

English Theatre, 1660–1900 Peter Thomson

Francophone Literature Patrick Corcoran

Literature and the Environment Timothy Clark

Modern British Theatre Simon Shepherd

Modern Irish Poetry Justin Quinn

Modernism Pericles Lewis

Narrative (second edition) H. Porter Abbott

The Nineteenth-Century American Novel Gregg Crane

The Novel Marina MacKay

Old Norse Sagas Margaret Clunies Ross

Postcolonial Literatures C. L. Innes

Postmodern Fiction Bran Nicol

Russian Literature Caryl Emerson

Scenography Joslin McKinney and Philip Butterworth

The Short Story in English Adrian Hunter

Theatre Historiography Thomas Postlewait

Theatre Studies Christopher Balme

Tragedy Jennifer Wallace

Victorian Poetry Linda K. Hughes

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