William Shakespeare and John Donne

Stages of the soul in early modern English poetry

By Angelika Zirker

William Shakespeare and John Donne


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-3329-8
  • Pages: 280
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: January 2019
  • BIC Category: Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: poetry & poets, Literature & literary studies / Shakespeare studies & criticism, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: c 1500 to c 1800, Shakespeare, Psychology: the self, ego, identity, personality, Literary studies: poetry & poets, Early 17th century c 1600 to c 1650, c 1590 to c 1599, POETRY / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, LITERARY CRITICISM / Shakespeare
  • Series: The Manchester Spenser


This study analyses concepts and representations of the soul in the poetry of William Shakespeare and John Donne. It shows how the soul becomes a linking element between the genres of poetry and drama, and how poetry becomes dramatic whenever the soul is at its focus. This double movement can be observed in Shakespeare's The Rape of Lucrece and Donne's Holy Sonnets: in these texts, the connection between interiority and performance, psychology and religious self-care can be found, which is central to the understanding of early modern drama and its characteristic development of the soliloquy. The study thus offers a new reading of the poems by Shakespeare and Donne by analysing them, in different ways, as staged dialogues within the soul. It contributes to research on the soliloquy as much as on concepts of inwardness during the early modern period. The book is aimed at readers studying early modern literature and culture.


'The book is very carefully composed and attractively presented, and quite free from typographical error or misprint.'
Seventeenth-Century News


Introduction: stages of the soul and drama in poetry

Part I William Shakespeare's The Rape of Lucrece and the drama of the soul
1 Motivating the myth: allegory and psychology
2 'Thou art not what thou seem'st': Tarquin's inner stage and outer action
3 'But with my body my poor soul's pollution': Lucrece, her body, and soul
4 Lust-breathed Tarquin - Lucrece, the name of chaste: antagonism, parallelism, and chiasmus

Part II John Donne's Holy Sonnets and the so(u)le-talk of the soul
5 Divine comedies: the speaker, his soul, and the poem as stage
6 The sonnet as miniature drama: Donne's Holy Sonnet 'Oh my black Soule'
7 Sole-talk and soul-talk: Donne's so(u)liloquies in the Holy Sonnets
8 The speaker on the stage of the poem: Holy Sonnet 'This is my Playes last Scene'
9 Dialogue and antagonism in Donne's theatre of the soul

Part III Conclusion
10 So(u)le-talk, self, and stages of the soul



Angelika Zirker is Assistant Professor of English Philology (English Literature and Culture) at Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany

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