Shakespeare and Chronology: Edward Dowden's Biographical Readings

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With the work of the New Shakspere Society, the late nineteenth century witnessed a considerable revival of interest in the chronological ordering of Shakespeare's plays. Edward Dowden (Professor of English at Trinity College Dublin from 1867 to 1913), while being properly sceptical of the wilder excesses of some of this work, was heavily influenced by many of the findings advanced by the New Shakspereans. His seminal study Shakspere: A Critical Study of His Mind and His Art (1875) and his later, condensed, Shakespeare Primer (1877) seek to read the playwright biographically by studying the works chronologically. This essay charts the background to Dowden's project and the significance of his readings of Shakespeare. It also offers an explanation for the falling away of interest in Dowden's work from the early decades of the twentieth century onwards, linking it to the popularity of A. C. Bradley's Shakespearean Tragedy, the particular psychological models employed by Dowden in his work and the rise of critical approaches that rejected author-centred forms of analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-137
Number of pages8
JournalForum for Modern Language Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010


  • Shakespeare
  • Dowden
  • Edward
  • Bradley
  • Andrew Cecil
  • Yeats
  • W
  • B
  • Ingram
  • John Kells
  • chronology
  • biography
  • psychology
  • authorship
  • criticism
  • romances


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