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Staging imagination: transformations of Shakespeare in Wordsworth and Coleridge

O’Boyle, Patricia Marie (2008) Staging imagination: transformations of Shakespeare in Wordsworth and Coleridge. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis examines the ways that Wordsworth and Coleridge transform the works of Shakespeare, in order to stage the imagination as it functions in the lives of the characters in their poetry. I look especially at the importance of the play A Midsummer Night 's Dream to their poetic project, and show how elements of the play resurface in various poems, prefaces and prose writings of the two poets over a span of nearly twenty years. I argue that Wordsworth's transformations of Shakespeare contribute to a democratising of poetry, and a valorising of 'our common human heart'. Chapter one discusses Lyrical Ballads as a series of poems, which have Theseus' speech on Imagination as their unifying theme, emulating Shakespeare’s staging of passion. Chapters two and three examine Alexander Tytler's Essay on Translation as a 'negative' stimulus for Wordsworth's challenging poetic theories, and a source for some of his earliest 'transformations' of Shakespeare. Chapter four is a detailed survey of the critical background, and the Romantic reception of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and examines key themes in the play to elucidate the poets' poetry and prose. Chapter five is a comparison between 'The Last of The Flock' and The Merchant of Venice, showing how Wordsworth 'imitates' the tale, and transposes the 'tone' of the comic play into a quieter and sadder 'music'. Chapter six analyses 'Michael', as a transformation of Gaunt in Richard into the 'history homely and rude' of Michael the shepherd. Chapter seven is on Coleridge's Biographia Literaria, which re-tells the tale of the genesis of Lyrical Ballads, and Wordsworth's transformative poetics, as a 'translation' of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Chapter eight returns to Alfoxden, and Hazlitt's 'First Acquaintance with Poets', to revisit the poets as the protagonists of 'the dream' that was, and became, Lyrical Ballads.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2008
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Sep 2011 18:34

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