Read The Sea and the Mirror: A Commentary on Shakespeare's the Tempest by W.H. Auden Free Online
Book Title: The Sea and the Mirror: A Commentary on Shakespeare's the Tempest|
The author of the book: W.H. Auden
ISBN 13: 9780691113715
Format files: PDF
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Reader ratings: 4.1
The size of the: 33.19 MB
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Edition: Princeton University Press
Date of issue: April 27th 2003
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Written in the midst of World War II after its author emigrated to America, "The Sea and the Mirror" is not merely a great poem but ranks as one of the most profound interpretations of Shakespeare's final play in the twentieth century. As W. H. Auden told friends, it is "really about the Christian conception of art" and it is "my Ars Poetica, in the same way I believe The Tempest to be Shakespeare's." This is the first critical edition. Arthur Kirsch's introduction and notes make the poem newly accessible to readers of Auden, readers of Shakespeare, and all those interested in the relation of life and literature--those two classic themes alluded to in its title.
The poem begins in a theater after a performance of The Tempest has ended. It includes a moving speech in verse by Prospero bidding farewell to Ariel, a section in which the supporting characters speak in a dazzling variety of verse forms about their experiences on the island, and an extravagantly inventive section in prose that sees the uncivilized Caliban address the audience on art--an unalloyed example of what Auden's friend Oliver Sachs has called his "wild, extraordinary and demonic imagination."
Besides annotating Auden's allusions and sources (in notes after the text), Kirsch provides extensive quotations from his manuscript drafts, permitting the reader to follow the poem's genesis in Auden's imagination. This book, which incorporates for the first time previously ignored corrections that Auden made on the galleys of the first edition, also provides an unusual opportunity to see the effect of one literary genius upon another.
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Read information about the authorWystan Hugh Auden was an Anglo-American poet, best known for love poems such as Funeral Blues, poems on political and social themes such as September 1, 1939 and The Shield of Achilles, poems on cultural and psychological themes such as The Age of Anxiety, and poems on religious themes such as For the Time Being and Horae Canonicae. He was born in York, grew up in and near Birmingham in a professional middle-class family. He attended English independent (or public) schools and studied English at Christ Church, Oxford. After a few months in Berlin in 1928–29 he spent five years (1930–35) teaching in English public schools, then travelled to Iceland and China in order to write books about his journeys. In 1939 he moved to the United States and became an American citizen in 1946. He taught from 1941 through 1945 in American universities, followed by occasional visiting professorships in the 1950s. From 1947 through 1957 he wintered in New York and summered in Ischia; from 1958 until the end of his life he wintered in New York (in Oxford in 1972–73) and summered in Kirchstetten, Austria.
Auden's poetry was noted for its stylistic and technical achievement, its engagement with politics, morals, love, and religion, and its variety in tone, form and content. He came to wide public attention at the age of twenty-three, in 1930, with his first book, Poems, followed in 1932 by The Orators. Three plays written in collaboration with Christopher Isherwood in 1935–38 built his reputation as a left-wing political writer. Auden moved to the United States partly to escape this reputation, and his work in the 1940s, including the long poems For the Time Being and The Sea and the Mirror, focused on religious themes. He won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for his 1947 long poem The Age of Anxiety, the title of which became a popular phrase describing the modern era. In 1956–61 he was Professor of Poetry at Oxford; his lectures were popular with students and faculty and served as the basis of his 1962 prose collection The Dyer's Hand.
From around 1927 to 1939 Auden and Isherwood maintained a lasting but intermittent sexual friendship while both had briefer but more intense relations with other men. In 1939 Auden fell in love with Chester Kallman and regarded their relation as a marriage; this ended in 1941 when Kallman refused to accept the faithful relation that Auden demanded, but the two maintained their friendship, and from 1947 until Auden's death they lived in the same house or apartment in a non-sexual relation, often collaborating on opera libretti such as The Rake's Progress, for music by Igor Stravinsky.
Auden was a prolific writer of prose essays and reviews on literary, political, psychological and religious subjects, and he worked at various times on documentary films, poetic plays, and other forms of performance. Throughout his career he was both controversial and influential, and critical views on his work ranged from sharply dismissive, treating him as a lesser follower of W.B. Yeats and T.S. Eliot, to strongly affirmative, as in Joseph Brodsky's claim that he had "the greatest mind of the twentieth century". After his death, some of his poems, notably Funeral Blues, Musée des Beaux Arts, Refugee Blues, The Unknown Citizen, and September 1, 1939, became known to a much wider public than during his lifetime through films, broadcasts, and popular media.