This is a major study of the relation between poetry and politcs in sixteenth and seventeenth century English literature, focusing in particular on the works of Spenser, Shakespeare, Jonson, Milton, and Dryden.Howard Erskine-Hill argues that the major tradition of political allusion is not, as has often been argued, that of the political allegory of Dryden's Absalom and Architophel, and other overtly political poems, but rather a more shifting and less systematic practice, often involving equivocal or multiple reference.
Drawing on the revisionist trend in recent historiography, and taking issue with recent New Historicist criticism, the book offers new and thought-provoking readings offamiliar texts.
For example, Shakespeare's Histories, far from endorsing a conservative Tudor myth, are shown to examine and reject divine-right kingship in favour of a political vision of what the succession crisis of the 1590s required.
A forgotten political aspect of Hamlet is restored and ananti-Cromwellian strain is identified in Milton's Paradise Lost.
Again and again, Professor Erskine-Hill is able to show how some of the most powerful works of the period, works which in the past have been read for their aesthetic achievement and generalized wisdom, in fact contain a political component crucial to our understanding of the poem.
An awareness of the multivocality of historical exanmple and allusion distinguishes the book's interpretations of individual texts.
Times Literary Supplement
This is an important and overdue project ... a developed and sustained argument about the nature of political reference in literature that is attuned to recent developments in historiography ... These books will serve to introduce undergraduates to some of the complexities of reading literature politically; and offer literary historians a strong reading of early-modern political allusion.
The Times Higher Education Supplement
With a patient and scholarly precision whose very comprehensiveness rebuts any charge of pedantry, Erskine-Hill explores a context for the presence of a 'theatre of the world' in literature. ... in bringing the fullness of history to the literary past, Erskine-Hill's findings are both richer and more reliable. In the first of these volumes, the integration of Elizabethan history into literature brings many unexamined details to light: ... In the second volume,Erskine-Hill's examination of Samuel Johnson is masterly ... exciting books: formidably learned, wide-ranging, sure-footed, dynamic and remarkable. Disagreement is at the core of politics: while welcoming the chance for debate, this reviewer has no reservations concerning the scale of Howard Erskine-Hill'sachievement.
Journal of the Royal Stuart Society, 1997
an important and overdue project ... These books will serve to introduce undergraduates to some of the complexities of reading literature politically; and offer literary historians a strong reading of early-modern political allusion.
Times Higher Education Supplement
has many valuable things to say ... These are also volumes of conviction. Where Professor Erskine-Hill comes into his own is his grasp of the relationship between great literature and even greater earlier literature.
Nigel Smith, Keble College, Oxford, Essays in Criticism, Vol. XLVII, No. 4
Poetry and Realms of Politics contains a bounty of information about early English political thought and political history, and with it, many interesting suggestions about political allusions in key plays and poems of this long stretch of time.
Seventeenth-Century News, Rebecca Bushnell
a brief summary can give little sense of the subtlety, intricacy, and resourcefulness of Professor Erskine-Hill's account of particular works, of the eloquence and scrupulousness of his writing, or of the learning and intellectual seriousness which is evident on every page of this distinguished and important book ... this is a book which no one seriously interested in the literature or politics of seventeenth-century England can afford to ignore ... its author'scommitment to historical contextualization is inseparable from his passionate concern with the imaginative richness and artistic value of the works which are his subject.
David Hopkins, University of Bristol, Notes and Queries, Vol. 44, No. 3, September 1997