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date: 10 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

‘Shakespeare’s Late Style’ explores stylistic aspects of Shakespeare’s dramatic verse (and a little of the prose) in plays composed after Hamlet. It suggests that Dryden was among the first to recognize that Shakespeare’s style changed over time and seems to have thought that the style became less ‘pestered’ with ‘figurative expressions’ as the career advanced. Like most early commentators, however, Dryden left little detailed analysis to support his larger, often metaphorical, claims. The purpose of this chapter is to identify the features of Shakespeare’s style in the second half of his professional career, to explore the imaginative effect of those features, and to speculate on why these changes from his earlier plays might have occurred. One principal claim made in this chapter concerns the degree to which the dramatic verse is rooted in dramatic events and characters’ motivations and designs. Increasing abstraction in both thought and expression combine to create the distinctive quasi-allegorical qualities especially visible in the four or five plays last written by Shakespeare alone or in collaboration.

Keywords: late style, simile and metaphor, lexical invention, rhetoric, characterization, allegory, abstraction

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