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This critical magnum opus, unprecedented in Shakespeare studies for its scope and daring, is nothing less than an attempt to show the Complete Works – dramatic and poetic – as a single, tightly integrated, evolving organism. Identifying Shakespeare’s use of the two most significant religious myths of the archaic world in the poems Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, Ted Hughes argues that these myths later provided Shakespeare with templates for the construction of every play from All’s Well that Ends Well to The Tempest; and that this development, in turn, represented his poetic exploration of conflicts within the ‘living myth’ of the English Reformation. The claim is a large one, but Hughes supports his thesis with erudition and a painstakingly close analysis of language, plots and characters. A multitude of dazzling insights, such as only one great poet can offer into the work of another, is generated in the process, and our entire understanding of Shakespeare, his art and imagination, is radically transformed.
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