Shakespeare, Rule-Breaking and Artistic Genius: the Case of Sir John Soane
Reason for embargo
This is the author accepted manuscript. It is currently under an indefinite embargo pending publication by Palgrave Macmillan
The close of the eighteenth century marked the end of a long debate about Shakespeare’s stylistic affiliations and, correspondingly, the sort of authoritative model the national poet served to would-be artists. In very broad terms, since around 1700 the debate had moved from regarding Shakespeare as a flawed Classicist incapable of abiding by the dramatic unities laid down by Aristotle, to regarding him by the century’s end more as a home-grown, naturally exuberant Goth. But, as this chapter will show, Shakespeare was hard to pin down even under this capacious label. A recent edited collection on the topic is judiciously entitled Gothic Shakespeares in the plural (Drakakis and Townshend, 2008). The truth is that Shakespeare was by the late eighteenth century acknowledged as a supremely versatile poet who rose above both Classical and Gothic. Rather, he was hailed as a poetic genius whom no stylistic rules could contain. He was affiliated to the Gothic to the extent that he was a serial transgressor of polite aesthetic doctrines, but was also in accord with the era’s Romantic taste for defiant individualism.
In: Shakespeare and Authority, eds. Katherine Halsey and Angus Vine, chapter 12