Title of Abstract

"Divining Shakespeare's Rival Poet"

Submitting Student(s)

Shyanne Hamrick

Faculty Sponsor (for work done with a non-Winthrop mentor)

Matthew Fike, Ph.D.

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

English

Abstract

Of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets, numbers 78–86 feature his infamous poetic rival—the poet of “great verse,” gulled by the intelligence of “that affable familiar ghost.” For centuries, literary critics have searched a vast roster of contemporary candidates for the identity of the poet with whom he vied for patronage. The metacritical purpose of this paper is threefold: first, to qualify Henry David Gray’s argument in “Shakespeare’s Rival Poet”; second, to augment MacDonald P. Jackson’s claims regarding William Shakespeare’s rival poet as a hybrid figure; and third, to argue that the rival poet’s identity is presumably Christopher Marlowe—or perhaps an amalgam of Marlowe and George Chapman. Although scholars such as Gray suppose that the Rival Poet must certainly be Edmund Spenser, such claims obfuscate the Sonnets’ historicity and Spenser’s biography. If Shakespeare’s Sonnets are considered autobiographical literature composed between 1593 and 1600, Spenser’s residency in Ireland until 1598 contradicts the rival poet’s several mentions and his sudden disappearance partway through the sequence. Marlowe is a likelier candidate. Allusions to necromancy in The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus and biographical correlations between the rival poet’s disappearance and Marlowe’s death suggest that he, and not Spenser, is Shakespeare’s poetic adversary. However, since Shakespeare refers to his rival poet with the plural noun “writers” and alludes to Chapman’s translations of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the rival poet may have been prompted by—and be an amalgam of—at least these two contemporaries.

Start Date

15-4-2022 12:00 PM

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Apr 15th, 12:00 PM

"Divining Shakespeare's Rival Poet"

Of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets, numbers 78–86 feature his infamous poetic rival—the poet of “great verse,” gulled by the intelligence of “that affable familiar ghost.” For centuries, literary critics have searched a vast roster of contemporary candidates for the identity of the poet with whom he vied for patronage. The metacritical purpose of this paper is threefold: first, to qualify Henry David Gray’s argument in “Shakespeare’s Rival Poet”; second, to augment MacDonald P. Jackson’s claims regarding William Shakespeare’s rival poet as a hybrid figure; and third, to argue that the rival poet’s identity is presumably Christopher Marlowe—or perhaps an amalgam of Marlowe and George Chapman. Although scholars such as Gray suppose that the Rival Poet must certainly be Edmund Spenser, such claims obfuscate the Sonnets’ historicity and Spenser’s biography. If Shakespeare’s Sonnets are considered autobiographical literature composed between 1593 and 1600, Spenser’s residency in Ireland until 1598 contradicts the rival poet’s several mentions and his sudden disappearance partway through the sequence. Marlowe is a likelier candidate. Allusions to necromancy in The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus and biographical correlations between the rival poet’s disappearance and Marlowe’s death suggest that he, and not Spenser, is Shakespeare’s poetic adversary. However, since Shakespeare refers to his rival poet with the plural noun “writers” and alludes to Chapman’s translations of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the rival poet may have been prompted by—and be an amalgam of—at least these two contemporaries.