University of Tasmania
Thomas_Lovell_Beddoes_Anne_Harrex_2.pdf (8.63 MB)

Thomas Lovell Beddoes and the Germanic setting

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posted on 2023-05-26, 06:27 authored by Harrex, AC
The present thesis is a study of hitherto neglected aspects cf the work of the English poet and dramatist Thomas Lovell Beddoes (1803-1849). His major work, Death's Jest Book, was written in Germany; the adult years of his life were spent in this country and in Switzerland, and the literature and thought of the German writers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries influenced the treatment and the plot of Death's Jest Book. Beddoes received little or no recognition in his lifetime and not all the facts about his years on the Continent have yet been discovered. The Introduction therefore is devoted to establishing the sources for biographical and textual matters. Part One is biographical: a discussion of the life of the poet, his early works, and of the origin of the problems which led him to begin the writing of Death's Jest Book, a play whose development through twenty years of writing and revision is inseparable from that of its author. His later political career and suicide are treated in less detail. Part Two is devoted to a new interpretation of Death's Jest Book in terms of four main themes. The first two sections, A and B, discuss the source of the plot, its connections with the English revenge drama, and the later revisions of the play which are an index of the changes in the poet's view of life. Section C concerns the themes of folly, revenge and power and liberty, whose development is inextricable from the plot, and the theme of death, associated with the motif of the Dance of Death, is treated separately from page 86 onwards. Part Three attempts to evaluate the nature and extent of the German influence in the play in the four categories named in the Contents. The first discusses the general concept of irony, demonstrates Beddoes' use of Dramatic Irony, and defines the German concept of Romantic Irony, derived by Beddoes from three sources and adapted to the demands of his play. The summary of this section endeavours to answer some of the questions posed by Part Two C's discussion of the play, mainly that of its unity or lack of it. Three B discusses the influence of Novalis's theory of Magic Idealism on two passages of the play and associated matters; Three C is concerned with specific sections of the play which may or may not have been influenced by the works of German writers, mainly Goethe, Schiller and Tieck, and endeavours to establish the general nature of this influence; Three D concerns the version of Act 1 of the play and its relation to the German chronicle form, concluding with a word on linguistic influence to be detected in the language of the play. The Conclusion attempts to sum up the findings of the preceding two sections and relates Beddoes' work to the more general problems of the Romantic movement as a perspective of judgment.


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