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date: 20 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

‘Shakespeare’s Loose Ends and the Contemporary Poet’ contains detailed readings of individual poems with a Shakespearean theme by John Ashbery (‘Friar Laurence’s Cell’), Elizabeth Bishop (‘Twelfth Morning; or What You Will’), Roy Fisher (‘Barnardine’s Reply’), alongside passages from Geoffrey Hill’s ‘Funeral Music’ and The Triumph of Love, as well as observations about a number of other Shakespeare-inspired poems. It deploys them to sustain and illustrate an argument that contrasts with the noted attempts by earlier modernist poets such as Yeats, Eliot, Auden, and Ted Hughes to incorporate theories of Shakespeare’s organic creative unity into their oeuvres. Rather, this chapter proposes that it is the heterogeneity, the loose ends and frayed edges of the Shakespearean corpus that have inspired contemporary poets, prompting them to come at their own materials by means of the oblique angles provided by minor characters, such as Barnardine in Measure for Measure or the poet Cinna in Julius Ceasar, and less highly regarded plays, such as the early Henry VI cycle, finding thematic suggestions in implications that remain to be spelt-out in Shakespearean scenes, dialogues, and plot trajectories.

Keywords: poets, modernist, contemporary, heterogeneity, loose ends, oblique angles, minor characters

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