In this book the distinguished historian Victor Kiernan makes a case for seeing Shakespeare as a writer profoundly sensitive to the great social and political upheavals through which he lived. Shakespeare’s poetic and dramatic achievement, Kiernan argues, was not something which transcended his environment but was directly enlarged by his civic consciousness and his critical reactions to a changing social fabric.
Shakespeare’s phase of dramatic activity coincides with the first challenges to the institution of monarchy. Kiernan analyses the cycle of History plays in the light of the demise of feudal allegiances and the emergence of the modern state apparatus. He shows how the far-reaching transformations in social hierarchy which simultaneously began to take place are crucial to an understanding of the Comedies, in which confusion of identity, disguise and cross-dressing are central. And he examines the ways in which women’s roles are affected by this nascent individualism, especially in relation to the ideas of romantic love around which the Comedies revolve.
Shakespeare: Poet and Citizen draws a vivid portrait of the outstanding dramatist of modernity. Lucid, scholarly and absorbing, it will be a rich resource for both students and the general reader.
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Born near Manchester, V. G. Kiernan was a pupil of the Manchester Grammar School, and then of Trinity College, Cambridge. He then went on to undertake research work in modern diplomatic history, and won a College Fellowship. He was in India for eight years before the Partition, involved in radio
broadcasting during the war, and in teaching at the Aitchison College in Lahore. During his time there he got to know Faiz Ahmed Faiz and other Urdu writers, and began his verse translations of Iqbal, who had died recently in Lahore, and of Faiz. In later years he was given a Personal Chair in
Modern History at the University of Edinburgh, where he wrote a number of books and essays on Asian and European history, and on English Literature. Now retired, he lives in the Scottish Borders, with his wife, Heather.
Victor Kiernan (1913 2009)was one of Britain s most distinguished historians andthe author of The Lords of Human Kind, European Empires from Conquest to Collapse, and Shakespeare: Poet and Citizen, among many others.
Kiernan (modern history, Univ. of Edinburgh) explores "the connecting threads between what Shakespeare wrote and the environment whose air he breathed." This work deals mainly with the histories and comedies but also includes the early tragedies Titus Andronicus and Romeo and Juliet , the poems, and the sonnets. Kiernan's method is to discuss each play individually and then, in another section, examine some historical or comedic theme, such as monarchy, war, nationalism, women and the family, wit and humor, lovers, and affairs of state. The method leads to some repetition, and generally the thematic discussions are of more value than the too-brief discussions of the plays. Kiernan sees Shakespeare as a "progressive" rather than a conservative; he brings a wealth of information to the subject and shares some provocative insights, such as his comment that although Shakespeare praises the virtues of peace, he also shares the contemporary belief that "peace brings national degeneracy." For informed readers.
- Bryan Aubrey, Fairfield, Ia.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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