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Michael Drayton's brilliant career

By Andrew Hadfield


Michael Drayton (1563-1631) has generally been regarded as a major second-rate poet, worthy but dull, and of lower literacy value than his more brilliant contemporaries. Drayton has been seen as a bad-tempered and frustrated author who could never accept that the Elizabethan age was over. However, a more careful examination of Drayton's extensive writings reveals an astute and forceful mind at work, one that has a clear sense of what a poet should do. Drayton deliberately constructs an image of himself as the true poet laureate in his work, a writer who should be at the centre of the nation's affairs. His extensive writings cover a wide range of subjects, as well as styles and forms, examining English history, geography, and court life, an attempt to show that the poet can help define and determine public life. Drayton attracted very little substantial patronage in his lifetime, which has led critics to assume that he considered himself a failure. However, he undoubtedly placed far more importance on his work in print, as he frequently informs us, and often berates would-be patrons for not seeing the value of his work. Drayton is best read as a poet who saw the possibilities of the medium of print publication, enabling the poet to reach a wider audience. His output, reputation, and desire to construct a canon of predecessors as well as a circle of literary friends, all need to be seen in this light

Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year: 2005
DOI identifier: 10.5871/bacad/9780197263242.003.0006
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