'Too hot, Too hot': The Rhetorical Poetics of Soliloquies in Shakespeare's Late Plays

Kate Aughterson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapter


Recent critical interest in the phenomena of lateness in the construction of artistic work, by both artists and critics (along with a return to stylistics), has fuelled recent critical and performative interpretations of Shakespeare’s late plays. However, there has not been a close re-examination of the rhetoric and poetics of the soliloquies of the late plays amidst these interpretations. The late plays (tragi-comic romances) share a large number of observable stylistic characteristics (pace McDonald) which act as rhetorical memes in the broader performed experience of each play. I shall argue that both the content and structural dramatic usage of soliloquies in these plays, whilst building upon strategies of self-address in the earlier comedies and tragedies, enables them to move into the more mythic performative and representational world which critics have noted. The soliloquy in the late plays can therefore be used both as a test-case of Shakespeare’s dramaturgical experimentalism and of how we should think about soliloquies in all of his plays. The occurrence of soliloquies varies tremendously in the late plays – from Cymbeline which has more than any other play by Shakespeare, to Henry VIII, which has some of the fewest – but their dramatic function as integral to each performative scenic moment on stage enables readers and viewers to see soliloquies as rhetorical gestures and strategies marshalled as one part of Shakespeare’s dramaturgical poetics in order to explore how to represent ideas, actions, myths and identities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationShakespeare and the Soliloquy in Early Modern English Drama
EditorsA.C. Cousins, Daniel Derrin
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9781316779118
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

This material has been published in Shakespeare and the Soliloquy in Early Modern English Drama by Kate Aughterson, edited by A.D. Cousins & Daniel Derrin. This version is free to view and download for personal use only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works. © Cambridge University Press


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