Shakespeare's Lyric Stage: Myth, Music, and Poetry in the Last Plays

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University of Chicago Press
Publish Date
5.4 X 0.6 X 8.4 inches | 0.65 pounds
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About the Author

Seth Lerer is distinguished professor of literature at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of nine previous books, and received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Truman Capote Prize in Criticism for Children's Literature: A Reader's History, from Aesop to Harry Potter, also published by the University of Chicago Press.


"Seth Lerer ranges widely and brilliantly on Shakespeare's last plays, bringing them into sharper focus at a moment--like Shakespeare's own--when the tensions between the aesthetic and the political are palpable. Learned, informed, elegantly argued, and packed with insights, this is truly an 'elegy of the imagination, ' a deeply absorbing study that will prove invaluable to all who are drawn to these vexing, haunting plays."--James Shapiro, author of A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599
"In this evocative study of the late plays as experiments in lyric utterance, Lerer traces the representation of lyric as mediated and embodied performance, a repeatable impersonation, in order to suggest that art's capacities become for Shakespeare most urgent where poetry fails in its Orphic aspiration to turn, to fix, to transcend, to console. The elusive object of Shakespeare's Lyric Stage is less Shakespeare's late style than a whole sensibility caught, movingly, in the time for which elegy stands, gazing back at the remembered changes and forward at the fragility of its own ongoingness."--Bradin Cormack, Princeton University
"Within the much-explored territory of Shakespeare's late plays, Lerer's book will hold a place of its own for the richness of its scholarship and for the delicacy and originality of its readings. Looking closely at how these plays dramatize the power and limits of lyric voice, he manages beautifully to evoke their strange danger, charm, capaciousness, and doubt."--Kenneth Gross, author of Shylock Is Shakespeare
"[Lerer's] study of Shakespeare's last plays begins with Ariel, the performer struggling to maintain his artistic freedom in a power relationship. . . .They are linked by the figure of the courtly or uncourtly musician: Autolycus in The Winter's Tale, the lutenist in Henry VIII, Cloten and the two brothers in Cymbeline, Marina in Pericles, the Jailer's Daughter in The Two Noble Kinsmen. Lerer compares all of them with a real-life equivalent, the composer John Dowland, and sets them in the context of Ovid's Metamorphoses, especially the story of Ceyx and Alcyone as translated by Golding and retold by Chaucer. . . . [Lerer] transforms his material into "something rich and strange.'"--Times Literary Supplement
"In Shakespeare's Lyric Stage, Lerer considers the distinctiveness of Shakespeare's late plays by examining the role of lyric within them. Lerer argues that even as these plays repeat concerns and motifs from Shakespeare's earlier works, Shakespeare imbues in the later plays the perspective and spirit of the court of James I (who came to the throne in 1603)--that is, a world of spectacle and spectatorship at a time of political and personal uncertainty. In addition to positioning the plays in historical context, Lerer traces the evolving aesthetics of James's courtly world, in particular the contributions and career of musician John Dowland. . . . Summing up: Recommended."--CHOICE
"Seth Lerer brings to these rich and strange plays, with their contradictory impulses towards topicality, towards the past and towards the beyond, not only a deep knowledge of Jacobean history and culture, but a fine ear. . . . Lerer is alert above all to the cadences of the last plays' dialogue and to the time-stopping, time confounding moments when their action gives way to song."--London Review of Books
"Lerer weaves a complicated web in his monograph, uniting arguments about lyric, Orpheus and Ovid, the life of lutenist John Dowland, and the publication of the First Folio.. . . Lerer's monograph is a welcome addition to scholarship on Shakespeare's late, musical, and
Ovidian plays."--Theatre Journal