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date: 11 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Victorian poetry took Shakespeare up as both a guide and a challenge. The example of his sonnets and soliloquies stood behind the era’s pre-eminent formal developments in, respectively, lyric sequence and dramatic monologue. Phrasal allusion to Shakespeare was ubiquitous, often ingenious; deeper down, poets invoked him when exploring, or just revering, mysteries of identity made unprecedentedly urgent by the Victorian association between lyrical poetry and individual subjectivity. To this article of literary faith the poetic impersonality underwriting Shakespeare’s dramatic versatility posed a stumbling block, eliciting from some Victorians heavy polemical leverage and from others a ritual genuflection. Representative sonnets on the Bard by Arnold, Swinburne, and Browning variously exalt and query the poetics of transcendent being that, in a secularizing epoch, gathered around his name.

Keywords: allusion, being (ontology), character, dramatic monologue, identity, lyric(ism), poetic sequence, sonnet

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