Shakespeare's Aristotle: The Poetics in Renaissance England

Monday, February 24, 2020 - 5:00pm
Micha Lazarus (Cambridge)
Daubeny Laboratory, Magdalen College

Despite its galvanic influence on the Continent, Aristotle's Poetics has always been thought embarrassingly absent from Renaissance England. Yet there is plenty of hard evidence, on the contrary, that the work was a real force in the period, which casts new light not only on the Poetics and its influence but also on the methods we use to trace the larger narratives of classical reception. In this paper Micha will present two approaches to the Poetics in sixteenth-century England. The first traces the work's arrival in 1540s England through the Byzantine trivium, the Greek pronunciation controversy, scriptural tragedy, and academic readings of classical drama, locating the Poetics within a network of intellectual affiliations now mostly forgotten. His second case study, conversely, suggests how a restored Poetics might clear new paths for literary criticism as well as literary history, as close comparison of Hamlet and King Lear finds Shakespeare on the trail of Aristotle's elusive notion of catharsis.