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Surveying the development and varieties of blank verse in the English playhouses, this book is a natural history of iambic pentameter in English. The main aim of the book is to analyze the evolution of Renaissance dramatic poetry. Shakespeare is the central figure of the research, but his predecessors, contemporaries and followers are also important: Shakespeare, the author argues, can be fully understood and appreciated only against the background of the whole period.
Far more than any professional historian, Shakespeare is responsible for whatever notions most of us possess about English medieval history. Anyone who appreciates the dramatic action of Shakespeare's history plays but is confused by much of the historical detail will welcome this guide to the Richards, Edwards, Henrys, Warwicks and Norfolks who ruled and fought across Shakespeare's page and stage.
Why did Shakespeare write drama? Did he have specific reasons for his choice of this art form? Did he have clearly defined aesthetic aims in what he wanted drama to do - and why? Pauline Kiernan opens up a new area of debate for Shakespearean criticism in showing that a radical, complex defence of drama which challenged the Renaissance orthodox view of poetry, history and art can be traced in Shakespeare's plays and poems.