Cultivating the Bard: The construction of Shakespeare in the long eighteenth century

Seitz, Emily Lynne (2022). Cultivating the Bard: The construction of Shakespeare in the long eighteenth century. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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The construction of Shakespeare as ‘the poet of nature’ in the long eighteenth century was a constant, yet changing, process that shifted as did contemporary philosophical and scientific views of the natural world. In this study, I examine how Shakespeare became ‘the poet of nature’ as a result of critics, adapters, and editors using metaphors of the natural world and cultivation to describe him and his writing during the era. I take a new approach by assessing these metaphors more literally, since the language critics used to assess Shakespeare’s works from 1660 to 1799 reflected gardening practices and philosophical ideals of the times. The language of cultivation was a powerful tool for Shakespearean critics to use as it allowed them to apply metaphors that could show that Shakespeare’s ‘Beauties’ coexisted with his ‘Faults’ or ‘weeds,’ while at the same time justifying their argument for the removal of the ‘Faults.’ My study shows how literary critics were influenced by philosophical ideals of cultivation, which shaped their adaptations and editions of Shakespeare’s plays. I connect the long eighteenth century’s shifting attitudes to Shakespeare with the changing perceptions of nature and gardening in this period. My study shows how Shakespearean criticism moved throughout the era from seeing Shakespeare as in need of cultivation to a national genius by the time of Garrick’s 1769 Jubilee.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and Creative Studies, Department of English Literature
Funders: Other
Other Funders: College of Arts and Law Distance Learning Scholarship
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature


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