By Peter Hyland
An creation to Shakespeare's Poems presents a full of life and expert 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 could be of curiosity to twenty-first century readers.
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Additional info for An Introduction to Shakespeare's Poems
The most celebrated of Elizabethan aristocratic writers, Sidney was a member of one of the most powerful and respected noble families in England, and was often characterized by his contemporaries as the ideal Renaissance man. He was deeply involved in public and military affairs, and his recklessness and outspokenness at one point made him so offensive to the queen that between 1580 and 1583 he retired from the court, living principally at Wilton House, the home of his sister Mary, Countess of Pembroke.
A part of the answer is that although the Tudor monarchy supplanted medieval feudalism, it was still essentially a hierarchical system. Most of the families that constituted the Tudor aristocracy had themselves been ennobled by the Tudors, and the patronage system was a means of binding them to the monarch by ties of obligation. They, in their turn, handed out gifts and favours to their supporters. Patronage in one form or another thus permeated the entire society in something like a trickle-down effect.
But the noble consumer’s desire for novelty, for new and exciting poetry, was often mixed with a degree of distaste for those who produced it if they came from outside the ‘community of blood’. The professional poet was working with very potent and volatile materials, the significance of which was intimately connected to the ideology of the elites within the court and to the way in which they perceived themselves and wished to be perceived. He could, therefore, be dangerous. As we have seen, Shakespeare’s way into the system was through the Earl of Southampton, but we do not know what, if anything, he gained from this relationship.