chapter  3
24 Pages

Tottel’s Troy

ByAlex Davis

This chapter explores Shakespeare makes of the Miscellany in the narrative poems and the plays, showing how such uses are consistently focused on matters of memory and fame, before turning to a more extensive treatment of these subjects in the Sonnets, where they are the central topic, as they are in The Phoenix and the Turtle. Shakespeare has evidently used the Miscellany poem not just as a simple memento mori, but to call to mind the poetics of an earlier era. Hamlet is in this scene preoccupied with his childhood, apparently 30 years ago; Shakespeare approximates the evocation of a vanished age by parroting the poetry popular in his own youth, and which now perhaps seems rather superseded. Shakespeare uses material from the Miscellany when he wants to touch, however ironically, on the idea of posthumous fame. Shakespeare is keen on imagery of printing, particularly as a way of expressing the comparison between biological and poetic generativity.