'New-found methods and . . . compounds strange' : reading the 1640 Poems: Written by Wil. Shake-speare. Gent.
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The second edition of Shakespeare’s sonnets, titled Poems: Written by Wil. Shake-Speare, Gent, and published by stationer John Benson in 1640, was a text typical of its time. In an effort to update the old-fashioned sonnet sequence in which its contents had first reached print, the compiler or editor of the Bensonian version rearranged the poems from the earlier quarto text, adding titles and other texts thought to have been written by or about the sonnets’ author. The immediate reception of the 1640 Poems was a quiet one, but the volume’s contents and structure served as the foundation for more than half of the editions of Shakespeare’s sonnets produced in the eighteenth century. In part due to the textual instability created by the presence of two disparate arrangements of the collection, Shakespeare’s sonnets served only as supplements to the preferred Shakespearean canon from 1709 to 1790. When, at the end of the century, the sonnets finally entered the canon in Edmond Malone’s groundbreaking edition of the plays and poems together, Benson’s version was quickly overshadowed by the earlier text, which was preferred as both more authorial and, due to Malone’s careful critical readings, autobiographical. In contrast to the many scholars since Malone who have overlooked or denigrated the Poems of 1640, this thesis studies the second edition of Shakespeare’s sonnets within the framework of the early modern culture that produced it, arguing that Benson’s edition provides valuable evidence about the editorial habits and literary preferences of the individuals and culture for which it was originally intended.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2019-02-20
Embargo Reason: Part of thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Electronic copy of Appendix 2 restricted until 20th February 2019
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