Reading Shakespeare's characters : rhetoric, ethics, and identity / Christy Desmet.

By: Desmet, Christy, 1954-Material type: TextTextSeries: Massachusetts studies in early modern culture: Publisher: Amherst : University of Massachusetts Press, c1992Description: ix, 215 p. ; 24 cmISBN: 0870238078 (alk. paper); 9780870238079 (alk. paper)Subject(s): Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616 -- Characters | English language -- Early modern, 1500-1700 -- Rhetoric | Characters and characteristics in literature | Identity (Psychology) in literature | Reader-response criticism | Ethics in literatureAdditional physical formats: Online version:: Reading Shakespeare's characters.DDC classification: 822.3/3 LOC classification: PR2989 | .D47 1992Other classification: 18.05 Summary: Although current theory has discredited the idea of a coherent, transcendent self, Shakespeare's characters still make themselves felt as a presence for readers and viewers alike. Confronting this paradox, Christy Desmet explores the role played by rhetoric in fashioning and representing Shakespearean character. She draws on classical and Renaissance texts, as well as on the work of such twentieth-century critics as Kenneth Burke and Paul de Man, bringing classical, Renaissance, and contemporary rhetoric into fruitful collision. Desmet redefines the nature of character by analyzing the function of character criticism and by developing a new perspective on Shakespearean character. She shows how rhetoric shapes character within the plays and the way characters are "read." She also examines the relationship between technique and theme by considering the connections between rhetorical representation and dramatic illusion and by discussing the relevance of rhetorical criticism to issues of gender. Works analyzed include Hamlet, Cymbeline, King John, Othello, The Winter's Tale, King Lear, Venus and Adonis, Measure for Measure, and All's Well That Ends Well.
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Includes bibliographical references (p. 169-203) and index.

Although current theory has discredited the idea of a coherent, transcendent self, Shakespeare's characters still make themselves felt as a presence for readers and viewers alike. Confronting this paradox, Christy Desmet explores the role played by rhetoric in fashioning and representing Shakespearean character. She draws on classical and Renaissance texts, as well as on the work of such twentieth-century critics as Kenneth Burke and Paul de Man, bringing classical, Renaissance, and contemporary rhetoric into fruitful collision. Desmet redefines the nature of character by analyzing the function of character criticism and by developing a new perspective on Shakespearean character. She shows how rhetoric shapes character within the plays and the way characters are "read." She also examines the relationship between technique and theme by considering the connections between rhetorical representation and dramatic illusion and by discussing the relevance of rhetorical criticism to issues of gender. Works analyzed include Hamlet, Cymbeline, King John, Othello, The Winter's Tale, King Lear, Venus and Adonis, Measure for Measure, and All's Well That Ends Well.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

CHOICE Review

This book is concerned with what the author calls "the rhetoric of characterization" or "the shaping of identity through rhetorical means." Desmet explores the role of rhetoric in "the process of interacting with Shakespeare's characters," which is her definition of "reading" characters, by drawing on classical and Renaissance texts and on the work of contemporary rhetoricians. Early chapters deal with Hamlet and Ophelia and with Falstaff as examples of reading character and of character criticism. The central part of the book discusses the characters of Cymbeline, Othello, King John, and The Winter's Tale. Final chapters treat King Lear and the female characters of Venus and Adonis, Measure for Measure, and All's Well That Ends Well. Many useful comments about the works and characters are made in the course of discussion. The emphasis on rhetorical theory, however, makes this book of interest primarily to advanced students and scholarly specialists. R. E. Burkhart; Eastern Kentucky University

Author notes provided by Syndetics

Christy Desmet is associate professor of English at the University of Georgia.

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