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Shakespeare Only$
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Jeffrey Knapp

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780226445717

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226445731.001.0001

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Our Humble Author

Our Humble Author

(p.34) 1 Our Humble Author
Shakespeare Only

Jeffrey Knapp

University of Chicago Press

This chapter, which examines Shakespeare's career as a mass entertainer from the literary perspective of his sonnets, begins by examining Shakespeare's quite different contemporary reputation as a commanding writer. It shows how celebrations of Shakespeare as a sovereign poet were complicated by the very popularity of his work for the stage, and how Shakespeare himself emphasized this complication in his sonnets. The first portion of the sonnets, which portrays the speaker's love for a lordly young man, expresses at times a supreme confidence in the speaker's literary power. Although authorship ceases to be a sufficient description of the speaker in the later sonnets, a strangely base kind of sovereignty becomes more prominent there, as the high-mindedly ambitious poet metamorphoses into a singularly vulgar mass entertainer.

Keywords:   mass entertainer, Shakespeare, sonnets, sovereignty, authorship, literary perspective

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