In this, her last book, Rosalie L. Colie suggests that by linking "forms"—verse forms, devices, motives, themes, conventions, genres—to the culture from which a writer springs and to his selection and organization of materials, we can understand the processes by which he becomes what he is, and is enabled to do what he does.
She is particularly concerned with uncovering the ways in which Shakespeare used, misused, criticized, re-created, and sometimes revolutionized the received topics and devices of his craft. In this sense, Shakespeare's plays are seen as problem plays, each exploring the problematics of his craft and revealing his assessment of what was problematical. The author has chosen for study topics which connect Shakespeare with the long and rich continental Renaissance, in the hope that in the future Shakespeare might be, like Dante and Cervantes, an essential author in a comparatist's education.
Usually a single topic dealing with some formal aspect of a play—the use of stereotypes to create a character highly original in stage practice, or the various manipulations of a mode (the pastoral, for example) rich in potentialities—is used to try to see in what particular ways Shakespeare shaped works that are still unique.
Originally published in 1974.
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Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Rosalie Littell Colie: