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Chapter 8 - Pater’s Shakespeare

from Part II - Individual Authors: Early Moderns, Romantics, Contemporaries

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 November 2023

Charles Martindale
Affiliation:
University of Bristol
Elizabeth Prettejohn
Affiliation:
University of York
Lene Østermark-Johansen
Affiliation:
University of Copenhagen
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Summary

Pater published three essays on Shakespeare, and probably considered a longer series, possibly to culminate in a book. His attention in the completed essays is directed towards plays that were relatively unpopular in his own day, and in the case of two of these he can be said to occupy an important position in the history of their reception. Modern critics of Richard II and Love’s Labour’s Lost still regularly, if cursorily, cite Pater as a milestone. But Pater’s contribution to Shakespearean criticism more generally is rarely remembered or appraised. This chapter attempts to estimate and characterise the influence Pater has had on subsequent criticism of Shakespeare, sometimes in unexpected places, and also to draw out some of the insights of which later criticism takes less notice. Each of Pater’s Shakespeare studies attempts to formulate relations between ethics and aesthetics, and many of their central terms – fineness, justice, grace, etc. – are used with both moral and aesthetic significance. By examining these essays in the context of other Shakespearean criticism and of Pater’s wider work, it is possible to arrive at some idea of what Shakespeare meant to him.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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