By Peter Hyland
An creation to Shakespeare's Poems offers a full of life and proficient exam of Shakespeare's non-dramatic poetry: the narrative poems Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece; the Sonnets; and numerous minor poems, together with a few just recently attributed to Shakespeare. Peter Hyland locates Shakespeare as a sceptical voice in the turbulent social context within which Elizabethan specialist poets needed to paintings, and relates his poems to the tastes, values and political pressures of his time. Hyland additionally explores how Shakespeare's poetry may be of curiosity to twenty-first century readers.
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The witty way in which he puts his fate into Southampton’s hands indicates that he does not expect his gift to be rejected. This is not to say that Shakespeare feels no discomfort in this dedication. He is very clear about the hierarchical structure of power that orders the relationship between patron and client; in different ways it reflects the relationship between reader and writer or between audience and playwright. In the final line of the Prologue to Henry V Shakespeare, speaking through the Chorus, asks the audience ‘Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play’, and this is not merely a rhetorical gesture, for the audience does have the authority to make the play fail.
Patronage in one form or another thus permeated the entire society in something like a trickle-down effect. The source of everything was the sovereign, whose gifts by and large went directly to the aristocratic members of the court: they within their own households passed on this largesse. Outside the court, the system was replicated in wealthy circles, and city officials, churchmen, lawyers, merchants and members of companies all dispensed patronage in emulation of their superiors. Shakespeare and the Literary Marketplace 27 Patronage, then, was essential as a means of tying together the social and political structure, but it had another important function.
The courtly lover expressed his esteem for 38 An Introduction to Shakespeare’s Poems the lady in terms of a feudal model of selfless loyalty, serving her as a knight served his lord. Thus, although the lover was always a warrior, and the language of love often couched in terms of a military campaign, love was expressed as a refining experience, repressing the more brutal aspects of ‘chivalric’ action. It should be apparent that this system is open to self-indulgent abuse, and by the mid-1590s it was somewhat tarnished.
An Introduction to Shakespeare's Poems by Peter Hyland