The century between the Restoration and David Garrick's Stratford Jubilee saw Shakespeare's promotion from the status of archaic, rustic playwright to that of England's timless Bard, and with it the complete transformation of the ways in which his plays were staged, published, and read. But why Shakespeare? And what different interests did this process serve?The Making of the National Poet is the first full-length study since the 1920s of the
Restoration and eighteenth century's revisions and revaluations, and the first to consider the period's much reviled stage adaptations in the context of the profound cultural changes in which they participate. Drawing on a wide range of evidence - including engravings, prompt-books, diaries,
statuary, and previously unpublished poems (among them traces of the hitherto mysterious Shakespeare Ladies' Club), it examines how and why Shakespeare was retrospectively claimed as both a respectable Enlightenment atuhor and a crucial and contested symbol of British national identity. It shows in particular how the deification of Shakespeare co-existed with and even demanded the drastic and sometimes bizarre rewriting of his plays for which the period is notorious.The
book provides, through engaging and informative analysis, the definitive account of the theatre's role in establishing Shakespeare as Britain's National Poet.From reviews of the hardback:'Dobson . . . is one of the band of recent critics who have viewed the
history of Shakespeare's reputation as a political matter. He proves himself to be certainly the wittiest and possibly the most learned and judicious of these critics. He has a marvellous way of unearthing some forgotten adaptation . . . he has a strong grasp of the intricacies of eighteenth-century politics.' Times Literary Supplement'distinguished book' Shakespeare Survey'rich in insight' London Review of Books
`Michael Dobson has reviewed old material and found new material and judiciously shows the making of Shakespeare into a playwright for those times and for all times, a popular playwright for the Restoration and Eighteenth Century and a national playwright and outstanding literary giant ... an esential one for all Shakespeare libraries and serious scholars.'
Bibliotheque D'Humanisme et Rensaissance (1993)
'Dobson's study, through its solid historicism, should make obsolete the more glibly sceptical strains of anti-bardolatry'
R.S. White, University of Western Australia, Notes and Queries, March 1994
From the hardback: 'perceptive study ... this is an accessible, lucidly persuasive and enjoyable work ... It makes an important contribution to the study of the Shakespeare phenomenon, but has no sense of bitterness or parti pris, and it offers a fresh and necessary realignment of thinking about the stage adaptations of the plays between the 1660s and the 1760s.'
Russell Jackson, University of Birmingham, Theatre Research International, Vol. 18, No. 3 1993
'For persons interested in how Shakespeare became the national poet, this volume is "must" reading. Reader-friendly notes (located at the bottoms of pages); extensive and valuable biography; reproductions of selected frontispieces from Shakespearean editions. Required for British intellectual history, Shakespearean criticism, and drama collections generally.'
C.B. Darrell, Kentucky Wesleyan College, Choice, Jul/Aug '93
'The Enlightenment dies hard, but Dobson is to be thanked for so adroitly and cleverly ushering it along.'
Margreta de Grazia, University of Pennsylvania, Modern Language Review, 25, 1995
`With no small measure both of wit and scholarship, Michael Dobson has produced a history of Bardolatry which brings alive the historical and textual processes by which Shakespeare became the English Ntional Poet...Dobson guides his reader helpfully through a wealth of dramatic material.'
Journal of Eighteenth Century Studies
`There are abundant scandalous stories in Michael Dobson's The Making of a National Poet...He has an entertaining story to tell, and does so with relish.'
English Studies Vol 75 no 6
`This is a very witty book...which provides a readable and scholarly account of how Shakespeare was subject to what might be described as the literary theory current in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.'
Literature and History 5/1