born July 11, 1930, New York City, N.Y., U.S.
American literary critic known for his innovative interpretations of literary history and of the creation of literature.
Bloom’s first language was Yiddish, and he also learned Hebrew before English. He attended Cornell (B.A., 1951) and Yale (Ph.D., 1955) universities and began teaching at Yale in 1955; he also taught at New York University from 1988 to 2004. As a young man, he was much influenced by Northrop Frye’s Fearful Symmetry (1947), a study of William Blake, and he later stated that he considered Frye “certainly the largest and most crucial literary critic in the English language” since Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde. Bloom’s own early books, Shelley’s Mythmaking (1959), The Visionary Company: A Reading of English Romantic Poetry (1961, rev. and enlarged ed., 1971), and The Ringers in the Tower: Studies in Romantic Tradition (1971), were creative studies of the Romantic poets and their work, then out of fashion. He examined the Romantic tradition from its beginnings in the 18th century to its influence on such late 20th-century poets as A.R. Ammons and Allen Ginsberg, quickly making a name for himself with his individual and challenging views.
With the publication of Yeats (1970), Bloom began to extend his critical theory, and in The Anxiety of Influence (1973) and A Map of Misreading (1975), he systematized one of his most original theories: that poetry results from poets deliberately misreading the works that influence them. Figures of Capable Imagination (1976) and several other works of the next decade develop and illustrate this theme.
One of Bloom’s most controversial popular works appeared in his commentary on The Book of J (1990), published with David Rosenberg’s translations of selected sections of the Pentateuch. In it, Bloom speculated that the earliest known texts of the Bible were written by a woman who lived during the time of David and Solomon and that the texts are literary rather than religious ones, on which later rewriters imposed beliefs of patriarchal Judaism. This work was one of a number of his books—including Kabbalah and Criticism(1975), The American Religions (1992), Omens of Millennium(1996), Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine (2005), and the novel The Flight to Lucifer (1979)—to deal with religious subjects.
Perhaps Bloom’s greatest legacy is his passion for poetry and literature of other types too. This is reflected in his best-known work,The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages (1994), which rejects the multiculturalism prevalent in late 20th-century academia. He once said of multiculturalism that “it means fifth-rate work by people full of resentment.” In an interview published in 1995, Bloom reflected on the great authors of the Western world, stating,
We have to read Shakespeare, and we have to study Shakespeare. We have to study Dante. We have to read Chaucer. We have to read Cervantes. We have to read the Bible, at least the King James Bible. We have to read certain authors.…They provide an intellectual, I dare say, a spiritual value which has nothing to do with organized religion or the history of institutional belief. They remind us in every sense of re-minding us. They not only tell us things that we have forgotten, but they tell us things we couldn’t possibly know without them, and they reform our minds. They make our minds stronger. They make us more vital.
Bloom continued to both praise and analyze the literary canon in such books as Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human (1998), How to Read and Why (2000), and Hamlet: Poem Unlimited (2003). He returned to the study of influence, the subject that established his critical reputation, in The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life (2011). In addition, he selected the content of, and provided commentary for, the collection The Best Poems of the English Language: From Chaucer Through Robert Frost (2004).
In the mid-1980s Bloom began to work with Chelsea House Publishers to “chronicle all of Western literature.” By 2005 he had edited more than 600 volumes. Series titles include Bloom’s BioCritiques on individual authors, presented in a format that includes an extensive biography and critical analyses; Bloom’s Guides, on individual literary masterpieces; Bloom’s Literary Places, guides to such cities as London, Dublin, and Paris; Bloom’s Major Literary Characters; Bloom’s Modern Critical Interpretations, on major works; Bloom’s Modern Critical Views, on major writers; and Bloom’s Period Studies.
in full Andrew Cecil Bradley
born March 26, 1851, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England
died September 2, 1935, London
Literary critic and preeminent Shakespearean scholar of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Bradley attended Oxford and held professorships of modern literature at the University of Liverpool (1882–90), of English language and literature at the University of Glasgow (1890–1900), and of poetry at Oxford University (1901–06). His Shakespearean Tragedy (1904), praised not only for penetrating analysis but also for its lucid prose style, is recognized as a classic of modern Shakespeare criticism. His psychological analysis of Shakespeare’s characters anticipated post-Freudian criticism; his cataloging of images from the plays foreshadowed the sensitive analysis of Shakespeare’s imagery made by Caroline Spurgeon and several later critics. Bradley also publishedOxford Lectures on Poetry (1909), which includes an essay on Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, and A Miscellany (1929), in which a well-known commentary on Tennyson’s In Memoriamappears.
Charles Cowden Clarke
born Dec. 15, 1787, Enfield, Middlesex, Eng.
died March 13, 1877, Genoa, Italy
English editor and critic best known for his work on William Shakespeare.
A friend of Charles Macready, Charles Dickens, and Felix Mendelssohn, Clarke became a partner in music publishing with Alfred Novello, whose sister, Mary, he married in 1828. Six years later Clarke began his public lectures on Shakespeare and other dramatists and poets. Those published include Shakespeare Characters; Chiefly Those Subordinate (1863) and Molière Characters(1865). In 1863 he edited George Herbert’s poems and in the next 14 years produced new editions of nearly all the English poets.
After his wife had compiled her Shakespeare Concordance (1845), the couple collaborated in an edition of Shakespeare (completed in 1868) and The Shakespeare Key: Unlocking the Treasures of His Style (1879). Clarke was mainly interested in character study, as was his wife, whose Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Heroines appeared in 1851–52. The Clarkes left London for Nice in 1856 and in 1861 settled in Genoa, where Clarke remained until his death.
born Nov. 3, 1831, Philadelphia, Pa., U.S.
died Jan. 1, 1901, Minneapolis, Minn.
American novelist, orator, and social reformer, one of the leading advocates of the theory that Francis Bacon was the author of William Shakespeare’s plays.
Donnelly grew up in Philadelphia, where he became a lawyer. In 1856 he moved to Minnesota, where, with another ex-Philadelphian, John Nininger, he founded the boomtown Nininger City, intended as a cultural as well as an industrial centre. There he edited the eruditeEmigrant Aid Journal, published in both English and German, to attract settlers. The scheme was successful at first, but a financial panic in 1857 caused abandonment of the town, leaving Donnelly as its only resident.
He entered politics, became an early supporter of the Republican Party, and served as lieutenant governor of Minnesota and as a U.S. congressman from 1863 to 1869. He left the Republicans in the 1870s and was active in several minority-party movements representing the interests of small farmers and workmen. Returning to Nininger City, he edited a liberal weekly, the Anti-Monopolist, in which he attacked bankers and financiers, whom he regarded as public enemies.
Donnelly’s first and most popular book was Atlantis (1882), which traced the origin of civilization to the legendary submerged continent of Atlantis. It was followed in 1883 by another work of speculation,Ragnarok: The Age of Fire and Gravel, which attempted to relate certain gravel and till deposits to an ancient near-collision of the Earth and a huge comet. In The Great Cryptogram (1888) and The Cipher in the Plays and on the Tombstone (1899), he attempted to prove that Bacon was the author of the plays attributed to Shakespeare by deciphering a code he discovered in Shakespeare’s works. His deciphering also led him to ascribe the plays ofChristopher Marlowe and the essays of Michel de Montaigne to Bacon.
Donnelly’s utopian novel Caesar’s Column (1891), which predicted such developments as radio, television, and poison gas, portrays the United States in 1988 ruled by a ruthless financial oligarchy and peopled by an abject working class. It enhanced Donnelly’s reputation with the Populist Party, which represented the discontented farmers of the West and which he helped found in 1892. At the time of his death, he was vice presidential candidate of a splinter party, the Middle Road Populists.
born May 3, 1843, Cork, County Cork, Ire.
died April 4, 1913, Dublin
Irish critic, biographer, and poet, noted for his critical work on Shakespeare.
Educated at Queen’s College, Cork, and Trinity College, Dublin, Dowden became professor of English literature at Trinity in 1867 and lectured at Oxford (1890–93) and Cambridge (1893–96). His Shakspere: A Critical Study of His Mind and Art (1875) was the first book in English to attempt a unified and rounded picture of Shakespeare’s development as an artist, studying him in terms of successive periods. His other works on Shakespeare include the primer Shakspere (1877), which was written for a nonacademic audience, and several edited collections of sonnets. He also provided the text to accompany the illustrations in Shakespeare Scenes and Characters (1876).
Dowden is also remembered for his Life of Shelley (1886) and was among the first to appreciate Walt Whitman, becoming his good friend.
Horace Howard Furness
born November 2, 1833, Philadelphia, Pa., U.S.
died August 13, 1912, Wallingford
American compiler, with his son and others, of variorum editions of 20 of Shakespeare’s plays.
Furness graduated from Harvard in 1854 and was admitted to the bar in 1859, but he soon devoted himself to the study of Shakespeare. Having accumulated a collection of illustrative material of great richness and extent, he brought out in 1871 the first volume (Romeo and Juliet) of the variorum edition, designed to represent and summarize the textual, critical, and annotative conclusions of the best authorities. Succeeding volumes appeared at regular intervals until the posthumousCymbeline in 1913. Furness was conservative in his methods but sound in his judgments, and he combined erudition with common sense and humour. His wife, Helen Kate Furness (1837–83), compiled A Concordance to Shakespeare’s Poems (1874); and his son and namesake (1865–1930) was a partner in and successor to his father’s work and edited his Letters (1922).
Furness’ collection is now the Horace Howard Furness Memorial Library, a section of the Department of Special Collections of the University of Pennsylvania Library.
born November 25, 1877, London, England
died August 31, 1946, Paris, France
English dramatist, producer, and critic whose repertoire seasons and Shakespeare criticism profoundly influenced 20th-century theatre.
Barker began his stage training at 13 years of age and first appeared on the London stage two years later. He preferred work with William Poel’s Elizabethan Stage Society and Ben Greet’s Shakespeare repertory company to a West End career, and in 1900 he joined the experimental Stage Society. His first major play, The Marrying of Ann Leete (1900), was produced by the society. In 1904 he became manager of the Court Theatre with J.E. Vedrenne and introduced the public to the plays of Henrik Ibsen, Maurice Maeterlinck, John Galsworthy, John Masefield, and Gilbert Murray’s translations from Greek. His original productions of the early plays of George Bernard Shaw were especially important. His wife, Lillah McCarthy, played leading roles in many of the plays he produced. Among new plays produced at the Court Theatre were several of his own: The Voysey Inheritance(1905), the most famous, showing Shaw’s influence; Prunella(1906), a charming fantasy written with Laurence Housman; Waste(1907); and The Madras House (1910).
Also revolutionary was his treatment of Shakespeare. Instead of traditional scenic decor and declamatory elocution, Barker successfully introduced, in the Savoy productions (1912–14) of The Winter’s Tale and Twelfth Night, continuous action on an open stage and rapid, lightly stressed speech. He and William Archer were active in promoting a national theatre, and by 1914 Barker had every prospect of a brilliant career.
After World War I, however, during which he served with the Red Cross, he found the mood of the postwar theatre alien and contented himself with work behind the scenes, including presidency of the British Drama League. He settled in Paris with his second wife, an American, collaborating with her in translating Spanish plays and writing his five series of Prefaces to Shakespeare (1927–48), a contribution to Shakespearean criticism that analyzed the plays from the point of view of a practical playwright with firsthand stage experience.
In 1937 Barker became director of the British Institute of the University of Paris. He fled to Spain in 1940 and then went to the United States, where he worked for British Information Services and lectured at Harvard University. He returned to Paris in 1946. A selection of his letters was published in 1986 as Granville Barker and His Correspondents.
born April 10, 1778, Maidstone, Kent, Eng.
died Sept. 18, 1830, Soho, London
English writer best known for his humanistic essays. Lacking conscious artistry or literary pretention, his writing is noted for the brilliant intellect it reveals.
Hazlitt’s childhood was spent in Ireland and North America, where his father, a Unitarian preacher, supported the American rebels. The family returned to England when William was nine, settling in Shropshire. At puberty the child became somewhat sullen and unapproachable, tendencies that persisted throughout his life. He read intensively, however, laying the foundation of his learning. Having some difficulty in expressing himself either in conversation or in writing, he turned to painting and in 1802 traveled to Paris to work in the Louvre, though war between England and France compelled his return the following year. His friends, who already included Charles Lamb, William Wordsworth, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, encouraged his ambitions as a painter; yet in 1805 he turned to metaphysics and the study of philosophy that had attracted him earlier, publishing his first book, On the Principles of Human Action. In 1808 he married Sarah Stoddart, and the couple went to live at Winterslow on Salisbury Plain, which was to become Hazlitt’s favourite retreat for thinking and writing.
Although he successfully completed several literary projects, by the end of 1811 Hazlitt was penniless. He then gave a course of lectures in philosophy in London and began reporting for the Morning Chronicle, quickly establishing himself as critic, journalist, and essayist. His collected dramatic criticism appeared as A View of the English Stage in 1818. He also contributed to a number of journals, among them Leigh Hunt’s Examiner; this association led to the publication of The Round Table, 2 vol. (1817), 52 essays of which 40 were by Hazlitt. Also in 1817 Hazlitt published his Characters of Shakespeare’s Plays, which met with immediate approval in most quarters. He had, however, become involved in a number of quarrels, often with his friends, resulting from the forcible expression of his views in the journals. At the same time, he made new friends and admirers (among them Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats) and consolidated his reputation as a lecturer, delivering courses On the English Poets (published 1818) and On the English Comic Writers(published 1819), as well as publishing a collection of political essays. His volume entitled Lectures on the Dramatic Literature of the Age of Elizabeth was prepared during 1819, but thereafter he devoted himself to essays for various journals, notably John Scott’sLondon Magazine.
Hazlitt lived apart from his wife after the end of 1819, and they were divorced in 1822. He fell in love with the daughter of his London landlord, but the affair ended disastrously, and Hazlitt described his suffering in the strange Liber Amoris; or, The New Pygmalion(1823). Even so, many of his best essays were written during this difficult period and were collected in his two most famous books:Table Talk (1821) and The Plain Speaker (1826). Others were afterward edited by his son, William, as Sketches and Essays(1829), Literary Remains (1836), and Winterslow (1850) and by his biographer, P.P. Howe, as New Writings (1925–27). Hazlitt’s other works during this period of prolific output included Sketches of the Principal Picture Galleries in England (1824), with its celebrated essay on the Dulwich gallery.
In April 1824 Hazlitt married a widow named Bridgwater. But the new wife was resented by his son, whom Hazlitt adored, and the couple separated after three years. Part of this second marriage was spent abroad, an experience recorded in Notes of a Journey in France and Italy (1826). In France he began an ambitious but not very successful Life of Napoleon, 4 vol. (1828–30), and in 1825 he published some of his most effective writing in The Spirit of the Age.His last book, Conversations of James Northcote (1830), recorded his long friendship with that eccentric painter.
Hazlitt’s Complete Works, in 13 volumes, appeared in 1902–06, to be reissued, edited by P.P. Howe, in 21 volumes in 1930–34.
byname Dr. Johnson
born Sept. 18, 1709, Lichfield, Staffordshire, Eng.
died Dec. 13, 1784, London
English critic, biographer, essayist, poet, and lexicographer, regarded as one of the greatest figures of 18th-century life and letters.
Johnson once characterized literary biographies as “mournful narratives,” and he believed that he lived “a life radically wretched.” Yet his career can be seen as a literary success story of the sickly boy from the Midlands who by talent, tenacity, and intelligence became the foremost literary figure and the most formidable conversationalist of his time. For future generations, Johnson was synonymous with the later 18th century in England. The disparity between his circumstances and achievement gives his life its especial interest.
byname of Benjamin Jonson
born June 11?, 1572, London, England
died August 6, 1637, London
English Stuart dramatist, lyric poet, and literary critic. He is generally regarded as the second most important English dramatist, after William Shakespeare, during the reign of James I. Among his major plays are the comedies Every Man in His Humour (1598), Volpone (1605), Epicoene; or, The Silent Woman (1609), The Alchemist(1610), and Bartholomew Fair (1614).
George Lyman Kittredge
born Feb. 28, 1860, Boston, Mass, U.S.
died July 23, 1941, Barnstable, Mass.
American literary scholar and teacher, one of the foremost authorities of his time on the writings of Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Sir Thomas Malory.
As a teacher, Kittredge was both the terror and delight of undergraduate students, conducting his year-long course in Shakespeare as a painstaking, line-by-line study of six plays. He taught his graduate courses in a less dramatic and more scholarly way. His major writings, along with many journal articles, established him as the then preeminent U.S. scholar of English literature.
After Kittredge received his A.B. degree at Harvard in 1882, he taught Latin at Phillips Exeter Academy (New Hampshire, 1883–88), with a year off for study abroad. He returned to teach at Harvard in 1888 and remained there until his retirement in 1936 (from 1917 as the first Gurney Professor of English). He was a protégé of Francis J. Child, the English and Scottish popular-ballad scholar, whose course in English Kittredge took over after his mentor’s death in 1896. As a teacher Kittredge was known for his brilliant, discursive style. He was also noted for his sharp wit and impressive personal manner.
Chaucer and His Poetry (1915) was acclaimed as one of the first works to make clear Chaucer’s greatness to modern readers. Other books include A Study of Gawain and the Green Knight (1916);Words and Their Ways in English Speech (1901), with J.B. Greenough; Witchcraft in Old and New England (1929); and a notable edition of The Complete Works of Shakespeare (1936).
née Charlotte Ramsay
born 1729/30, probably Gibraltar
died Jan. 4, 1804, London, Eng.
English novelist whose work, especially The Female Quixote, was much admired by leading literary figures of her time, including Samuel Johnson and the novelists Henry Fielding and Samuel Richardson.
Charlotte Ramsay was the daughter of a British army officer who was said to have been lieutenant governor of the colony of New York. This claim has been dismissed, however, in light of evidence that she went to live in or near Albany, New York, in 1739, when her father was posted there as captain of a company of foot soldiers. In 1743, after her father’s death, she returned to England, apparently to live with relatives. She attempted to earn a living as an actress but was not successful and is said to have turned to literary work. Her Poems on Several Occasions was published in 1747, and that same year she married Alexander Lennox. She made the first comparative study of William Shakespeare’s source material, calledShakespear Illustrated; . . . (1753–54), a project in which she may have been assisted by Dr. Johnson. The book takes Shakespeare to task for his plot adaptations and his lack of morality.
Lennox’s first novel was The Life of Harriot Stuart (1751). The Female Quixote (1752) and Henrietta (1758) followed. She attempted to write for the stage as well but met with only slight success.
Despite the friendship of Johnson and Richardson and the approbation of Fielding, Lennox made little from the sale of her books. She died in poverty.
born October 4, 1741, Dublin, Ireland
died 1812, London, England
Edmond Malone, oil painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds; in the National Portrait Gallery, London.
Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London
Irish-born English scholar, editor, and pioneer in efforts to establish an authentic text and chronology of Shakespeare’s works.
After practicing in Ireland as a lawyer and journalist, Malone settled in London in 1777. There he numbered among his literary friends Samuel Johnson, Horace Walpole, and the ballad collector Bishop Percy. He also was an associate of the statesmen Edmund Burke and George Canning and of the dean of English painters, Sir Joshua Reynolds, who painted his portrait and whose literary works he collected and published (1797).
Malone’s “An Attempt to Ascertain the Order in Which the Plays of Shakespeare Were Written” (1778) was the first such chronology. His three supplemental volumes (1780–83) to scholar George Steevens’ edition of Johnson’s Shakespeare—containing apocryphal plays, textual emendations, and the first critical edition of the sonnets—are landmarks in Shakespearean studies. Malone’s Historical Account of the Rise and Progress of the English Stage, and of the Economy and Usages of the Ancient Theatres in England (1800) was the first treatise on English drama based on original sources. His own edition of Shakespeare in 11 volumes appeared in 1790. A new octavo edition, unfinished at his death, was completed by James Boswell, the son of Samuel Johnson’s biographer, and published in 1821 in 21 volumes. This work, which included a memoir of Malone, was the standard edition of Shakespeare’s writings for more than a century.
Malone also detected (1796) Shakespearean forgeries by William Henry Ireland, edited John Dryden’s prose (1800), and helped the aging Boswell revise his Life of Samuel Johnson.
born 1565, Kirton, Holland, Lincolnshire, Eng.
died Jan. 29, 1647, Wing, Rutland
English author of Palladis Tamia; Wits Treasury, a commonplace book valuable for information on Elizabethan poets.
Meres was educated at the University of Cambridge and became rector of Wing, Rutland, in 1602. His Palladis Tamia (1598) is most important for its list of Shakespeare’s dramatic output to 1598, but it also includes mention of the deaths of Christopher Marlowe, George Peele, and Robert Greene and briefly records the critical estimation of the poets of the day. Shakespeare is called “the most excellent in both kinds [comedy and tragedy] for the stage,” and Chaucer, “the God of English poets.”
born Feb. 13, 1804, Plymouth Dock [now Devonport], Devon, Eng.
died Nov. 6, 1878, Anson’s Farm, Coopersale, near Epping, Essex
British actor and manager, one of the most famous actors of the 19th century.
Early in life he worked in various newspaper offices and then, shortly after marrying (1826), accepted a theatrical engagement in the York circuit. He afterward appeared in southern English towns in prominent tragic roles, attracting sufficient attention to be spoken of as a rival toEdmund Kean. He made his first London appearance on Aug. 28, 1837, as Shylock in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Veniceat the Haymarket Theatre. After a short season there, he spent six years at Covent Garden, the Haymarket, and Drury Lane successively.
In May 1844 he became co-lessee of the Sadler’s Wells Theatre with Thomas L. Greenwood and Mary Amelia Warner. Greenwood supplied the business capacity, Phelps was the theatrical manager, and Mrs. Warner (as she was known) was the leading lady. In this position Phelps remained for 20 years, raising the Sadler’s Wells house to an important position and appearing himself in an extensive and varied repertory. Thirty-four of Shakespeare’s plays were presented there under his direction. In 1861 Greenwood retired from the partnership, and Phelps, unable to cope with the business of management, retired from it in the following year. For the next 15 years he acted under various managements, achieving considerable success in dramatic versions of Sir Walter Scott’s novels, such as The Fortunes of Nigel and Ivanhoe. He made his last appearance in 1878 as Cardinal Wolsey in Shakespeare’s Henry VIII.
Phelps was a sound and capable actor rather than one of genius, and, in spite of his predilection for tragedy, was most successful in comic characters that called for dry humour. Perhaps Sir Pertinax Macsycophant in Charles Macklin’s The Man of the World was his finest impersonation. As a director, his handling of Shakespearean plays had a great educational effect both on the public and on players. He published an annotated edition of Shakespeare’s plays in two volumes (1852–54).
born May 21, 1688, London, England
died May 30, 1744, Twickenham, near London
poet and satirist of the English Augustan period, best known for his poems An Essay on Criticism(1711), The Rape of the Lock (1712–14), The Dunciad (1728), and An Essay on Man (1733–34). He is one of the most epigrammatic of all English authors.
Pope’s father, a wholesale linen merchant, retired from business in the year of his son’s birth and in 1700 went to live at Binfield in Windsor Forest. The Popes were Roman Catholics, and at Binfield they came to know several neighbouring Catholic families who were to play an important part in the poet’s life. Pope’s religion procured him some lifelong friends, notably the wealthy squire John Caryll (who persuaded him to write The Rape of the Lock, on an incident involving Caryll’s relatives) and Martha Blount, to whom Pope addressed some of the most memorable of his poems and to whom he bequeathed most of his property. But his religion also precluded him from a formal course of education, since Catholics were not admitted to the universities. He was trained at home by Catholic priests for a short time and attended Catholic schools at Twyford, near Winchester, and at Hyde Park Corner, London, but he was mainly self-educated. He was a precocious boy, eagerly reading Latin, Greek, French, and Italian, which he managed to teach himself, and an incessant scribbler, turning out verse upon verse in imitation of the poets he read. The best of these early writings are the Ode on Solitude and a paraphrase of St. Thomas à Kempis, both of which he claimed to have written at age 12.
born June 20, 1674, Little Barford, Bedfordshire, Eng.
died Dec. 6, 1718, London
English writer who was the first to attempt a critical edition of the works of Shakespeare. Rowe succeeded Nahum Tate as poet laureate in 1715 and was also the foremost 18th-century English tragic dramatist, doing much to assist the rise of domestic tragedy.
Rowe was called to the bar in 1696 and, an ardent Whig, afterward held several minor government posts. His early plays, The Ambitious Step-Mother (1700) and Tamerlane (1702), are reminiscent of John Dryden’s heroic drama in their pomp and bluster but contain elements presaging the spirit of sentiment that characterizes The Fair Penitent (1703) and later works. This latter play is of some literary significance; its hero, Lothario, besides giving a new word for an attractive rake to the English language, was apparently the prototype of Lovelace, the hero of Samuel Richardson’s novel Clarissa. Rowe composed The Tragedy of Jane Shore (1714) in imitation of Shakespeare’s style, as he did The Tragedy of the Lady Jane Grey (1715). His only comedy, The Biter (1704), was a failure.
In The Works of Mr. William Shakespear; Revis’d and Corrected,6 vol. (1709; 9 vol., including poems, 1714), Rowe essentially followed the fourth folio edition of 1685, although he claimed to have arrived at the text by comparing “the several editions.” He did, however, restore some passages in Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Henry V, and King Lear from early texts. He abandoned the clumsy folio format (a 9 x 12-inch page size), listed the characters in the plays, attempted act and scene divisions, and supplied a life of Shakespeare that, although composed for the most part of dubious tradition, remained the basis for all Shakespeare biographies until the early 19th century. Rowe’s own poetic output included occasional odes and some translations. His version of the Roman poet Lucan’sPharsalia, written in heroic couplets and published posthumously in 1718, was greatly admired throughout the 18th century.
in full Alfred Leslie Rowse
born Dec. 4, 1903, Tregonissey, Cornwall, Eng.
died Oct. 3, 1997, St. Austell, Cornwall
English historian and writer who became one of the 20th century’s foremost authorities on Elizabethan England.
The son of a labourer, Rowse was a brilliant student and won a scholarship to Christ Church College, Oxford, in 1922. He studied modern history there, and soon after graduating in 1925 he was elected a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, where he lived and worked for the next 49 years as a teacher and historian. He also took his master’s (1929) and doctorate (1953) from Oxford.
Rowse’s first book to attract attention, Sir Richard Grenville of the Revenge (1937), was a biography of an English naval commander during the time of Queen Elizabeth I (reigned 1558–1603). This was followed by Tudor Cornwall (1941), a vivid and highly detailed portrait of Cornish society in the 16th century. Rowse’s one-volume general history of England, The Spirit of English History (1943), was also highly praised, but his most important work is the historical trilogy The Elizabethan Age (1950–72). Its three volumes, entitled The England of Elizabeth (1950), The Expansion of Elizabethan England (1955), and The Elizabethan Renaissance (1971–72), respectively treat the social structure, overseas exploration, and cultural attitudes and achievements of England during Elizabeth’s reign.
Rowse narrowed his scope in 1963 with a controversial biography of Shakespeare and an annotated edition of the playwright’s complete works (1978). A 1976 work based on the diaries of a prominent Elizabethan even purported to reveal the identity of Shakespeare’s “Dark Lady.” Rowse drew much of his biographical information from Shakespeare’s works, and critics were quick to point out the lack of documentary evidence for information presented as fact. Rowse’s authoritarian tone and his failure to credit the work of other Shakespearean scholars were also noted with dismay.
He wrote several other biographies of English historical and literary figures, notably a two-volume study of the Churchill family (1956, 1958). Among his many other historical works are studies of the Tower of London and of sexuality in the Elizabethan age. He was also a prolific poet, and his autobiography appeared in several volumes, beginning with A Cornish Childhood (1942). His last book,Historians I Have Known, was published in 1995.
baptized April 2, 1688, Sittingbourne, Kent, Eng.
died Sept. 18, 1744, London
the first Shakespearean editor to approach the plays with the respect and attention then normally reserved for Classical texts.
When in 1726 Theobald brought out his Shakespeare Restored; or, A Specimen of the Many Errors As Well Committed As Unamended by Mr. Pope, in His Late Edition of This Poet,Alexander Pope, whose edition of William Shakespeare had appeared a year earlier, was enraged and made Theobald the chief target of his satirical poem The Dunciad.
In 1727 Theobald presented a play at the Drury Lane Theatre calledDouble Falsehood; or, The Distressed Lovers. He claimed that it was based on a lost Shakespearean play of 1613 called Cardenio, of which Theobald asserted that he possessed three copies. Those copies have disappeared, leaving scholars today to wonder if Double Falsehood can give some impression of that lost Shakespearean tragicomedy. Probably Shakespeare wrote Cardenio in collaboration with John Fletcher, his successor as chief playwright for the King’s Men. Presumably Double Falsehood, even if based on Cardenio, is a free adaptation in the style of much early 18th-century stage practice. Thus, the Theobald redaction would seem to stand at several removes from any Shakespearean original. Even so, it offers a tantalizing glimpse.
In 1734 Theobald produced his own edition of Shakespeare in seven volumes, often using Elizabethan parallels as a guide to some brilliant emendations. Nevertheless, Pope’s assessment of Theobald remained ascendant, and Theobald is little known beyond the world of Shakespeare scholars and students.
born July 13, 1881, London, Eng.
died Jan. 15, 1969, Balerno, Midlothian, Scot.
British Shakespearean scholar and educator.
Educated at the University of Cambridge, Wilson was professor of education at King’s College, London (1924–35), and regius professor of English literature at the University of Edinburgh (1935–45). Besides serving as chief editor of the New Cambridge edition of William Shakespeare’s plays (from 1921), he was a trustee of Shakespeare’s birthplace and also of the National Library of Scotland.
Wilson made important if controversial contributions to Shakespearean scholarship by a bold elucidation of textual obscurities and original, stimulating interpretations of the plays. His critical judgments have been variously labeled extreme, faulty, or inspired. His intensive study of Elizabethan handwriting proved helpful in reconstructing Shakespeare’s text.
His most famous book, What Happens in Hamlet (1959), is an original reading of that play, and The Fortunes of Falstaff (1943) presents a picture of Falstaff as a force of evil ultimately rejected by the king. His other works include Life in Shakespeare’s England: A Book of Elizabethan Prose (1911); The Essential Shakespeare: A Biographical Adventure (1932); Shakespeare’s Happy Comedies(1962); and Shakespeare’s Sonnets (1963).
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