marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

Majesty and Magic in Shakespeare's Last Plays

Majesty and Magic in Shakespeare's Last Plays by Frances A. Yates

An analysis of the imagery and the political messages of Shakespeare's last plays, starting with Pericles.

Which is to say, those plays that started to be referred to as his late comedies, or his romances, as soon as the Victorians cleared up the sequence they were written in.  (More or less -- Yates observes that Pericles is probably the first of the last plays.)

It discusses the use of such images as the phoenix -- particularly for Princess Elizabeth, as if she were Queen Elizabeth reborn -- the cypress, and more.  How Imogene, in Cymbeline, has the same name as the wife of that mythical founder of Britain, Brut.  How the royal family of Cymbeline echoed that of James -- which may be why it was not performed for Princess Elizabeth and her bridegroom, because Prince Henry, the much admired Prince of Wales, had died since her betrothal.

How Henry VIII makes all the imagery's connection to the modern day clearest.  Its conciliatory elements:  Queen Katherine is depicted as a good woman deeply grieved by the events, and promised a heavenly reward by a vision, and even Wosley is treated with some sympathy after his fall.

The Tempest and the treatment of magic -- and such a magus as Dr. Dee, who had died in poverty.  Other Renaissance magic element.

She also treats of Ben Jonson's The Alchemist, which inverts many of Shakespeare's themes.

Some interesting stuff.
Tags: history reviews: 15th-18th centuries, lit crit

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