Shakespearean Narrative

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University of Delaware Press, 1995 - Literary Criticism - 313 pages
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"In Shakespearean Narrative, Rawdon Wilson explores the variety and purposes of narrative in Shakespeare's plays. He does this by placing Shakespeare's use of narrative within a context of Renaissance narrative theory and practice, often citing analogous strategies from such other writers as Spenser and Cervantes, and exploring in depth the fruitfulness of contemporary narrative theory to an understanding of Shakespeare's practice. Thus Shakespearean Narrative undertakes a double task: it tries to understand Shakespeare's narrative strategies, which has never been done before in any comparable depth, and it also attempts to test the usefulness of contemporary narrative theory." "The book also relates Shakespeare's understanding of the narrative in the plays to the brilliant narrative poems that he wrote in the early 1590s. It also examines the narrative conventions that are used in the embedded, or inset, narratives in the plays. Particular attention is paid to the way Shakespeare creates fictional entities, such as worlds and characters, in the plays. A great deal of emphasis is placed on Shakespeare's innovative transformations of traditional narrative conventions."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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I liked Rawdon Wilson"s book on Shakespearean Narrative very much, first of all, for its exuberant richness of argument which afforded me the huge pleasure of learning a lot about Renaissance literature and its dazzling variety of narrative and rhetorical ploys and for its usefulness for me as a high school English teacher which features teaching Shakespeare. Wilson says in his preface that his book came out of his teaching practice which came more and more to focus on Shakespeare's narrative techniques, informed by his intimate knowledge of other Renaissance texts and his interest in narratology, both Renaissance and contemporary.This was a novel approach to me and I found it most stimulating. The ways in which Shakespeare interrupts the dramatic flow to tell and retell stories which serve to thicken the texture of the world of the play or poem, its characters and the reader's imaginative response are beautifully traced and explained.
The cover illustration is of Diego Valazquez's Las Hilanderas and is a perfect illustration of the trope of ekphrasis which Wilson traces through each chapter: Narrative, Conventions, Voice, World, Character and Boundaries. Ekphrasis is "the verbal description of a work of fine art"(35) and is commonly used by Renaissance writers, notably by Spenser, Cervantes and Shakespeare as Wilson shows. The complexity and playfulness that result in having a character in the work look at a painting or tapestry allowing the rudiments of that story, likely known and thus available for imaginative amplification, planted in the awareness of the character as well as the reader were thrilling discoveries for me and just one example of the value of reading this very fine book.


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