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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: July ::
Thomas Wilson's Arte of Rhetorique
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1521  Monday, 28 July 2003

From:           William Davis <
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Date:           Sunday, 27 Jul 2003 14:35:47 EDT
Subject:        Thomas Wilson's Arte of Rhetorique

After foraging through the collection of posts regarding Shakespeare's
rhetorical influences, and not finding what I hoped to find, I thought I
would toss a question out to the group.

I had the chance to skim through Thomas Wilson's "Arte of Rhetorique..."
recently (as well as Richard Sherry's extensive book on the same
subject, and a few other publications from Shakespeare's day), and
superficially it appeared to me that Wilson's approach to rhetoric -
especially in context of jesting and comedy -  had a very similar
viewpoint to the way in which Shakespeare applied his rhetoric in comic
situations (more so than I can find in any of the other rhetorical books
in the 1500s).  I didn't think it was much of a surprise, however,
considering how Wilson's book was the most popular and widely published
of his day.  Later, however, after picking up a copy of Sister Miriam
Joseph's book on Shakespeare's rhetorical art, I read that no definite
connections between Shakespeare's work and Thomas Wilson's book had ever
been made.  No one denied the possibility that Shakespeare may have had
access to Wilson's book, but without some direct, irrefutable connection
between the plays and Wilson's "Arte," it was still a question as to
whether or not Shakespeare had used it, or even studied/read from it.
Sister Joseph's book was published in 1947, and I haven't been able to
find anything to indicate whether this is still a common belief, or if
subsequent research has shown otherwise.  Ideas, anyone?

Much appreciation,
Wm Davis

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