Ted Hughes (19301998) was born in West Yorkshire, England, and attended Cambridge University. The author of more than a dozen volumes of poetry and numerous children’s books, Hughes was also a skilled translator of drama (Aeschylus, Euripides, Seneca, Racine). In 1984, he became Poet Laureate of England, and received the Order of Merit from Queen Elizabeth II shortly before his death.
Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being (Barnes & Noble Rediscovers Series)by Ted Hughes, David Birrell
First published in 1992, Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being has subsequently taken on a mythic life of its own. Dismissed at the time by some scholars, this audacious adventure in criticism has nevertheless become a talisman of sortsthe fruitful engagement of a great modern poet’s imagination with that of the greatest writer in our/i>
First published in 1992, Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being has subsequently taken on a mythic life of its own. Dismissed at the time by some scholars, this audacious adventure in criticism has nevertheless become a talisman of sortsthe fruitful engagement of a great modern poet’s imagination with that of the greatest writer in our language. In considerable detail, Ted Hughes argues that our response to Shakespeare’s late plays is prompted by a mythic, symbolic structure that inheres in each of them, and binds the entire Shakespearean corpus into a single, massive, complex, and ever-evolving work.
Hughes sees Shakespeare’s early poems Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece as embodying two great myths of the archaic world: that of the hero who rejects the love of the Goddess and is killed in revenge by a boar; and that of the king or god, whose crime is rape and whose punishment is banishment. As Shakespeare’s work develops, these two complexes merge into what Hughes calls the Tragic Equation, a flexible formula through which the playwright was able to tap into the power of these myths to enliven his own imaginationand through him the imagination of Elizabethan England, in which the conflicts between Catholicism and Protestantism in the “living myth” of the English Reformation never lay far from the bloody surface of events.
With his characteristic mixture of erudition and immediacy, Hughes traces this idea in a close reading of Shakespeare’s entire work. The result is a radically original, altogether engrossing analysis, which will excite, infuriate, and enrich all comers.
Praise for Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being:
“An unprecedented act of critical witness that spills out an energya tragic energythat has all but disappeared from current professional critical practice.” Tom Paulin, The London Review of Books
“Hughes made a bid, in a tireless, obsessive fury, to find the last nucleus of Shakespeare’s creative vision and unlock the psycholinguistic genome buried within the poetry and the plays.”David Birrell (“Grimwig”) on the literary blog Salon des Refusés
“The readings Hughes offers again and again are dazzling .Perhaps other people know Shakespeare’s poetry as he does, but I’ve not come across them.” Marina Warner, The Times Literary Supplement
“Since Robert Graves wrote The White Goddessan example Hughes acknowledgesnobody has offered the goddess so intricate a tribute Shakespeare, who admired energy, might well have applauded this writing.”Frank Kermode, The Sunday Telegraph
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