Harvey Wiltshire (UCL) - 2016-17 Students

Shakespeare’s Poetics of Blood

From ‘sacred blood’ to ‘golden blood’, Shakespeare’s determined use of sanguine imagery throughout his dramatic works and poetry suggests a dynamic and multivalent poetics of blood. Accordingly, my project – Shakespeare’s Poetics of Blood – examines the varied relationship between blood and literature during the Renaissance, situating the works of Shakespeare in their medical, literary, theological and cultural contexts. By examining Shakespeare’s sanguine imagery, the extent to which blood reflects and challenges period understandings and important issues pertaining to genre and literary influence becomes clear. In simultaneously anticipating William Harvey’s seminal work on the circulation of blood, and drawing on classical and contemporary knowledge and depictions of blood – from Paracelsus to Gyer, and Ovid to Lyly respectively – an examination of Shakespeare’s bloody poetics is uniquely positioned to illuminate and advance current understandings of the Renaissance physiology of blood and its integral significance to the literature and ontological perspectives of the period.

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