Shakespeare’s Metamorphosis

John Jowett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Shakespeare wrote his early plays mostly in collaboration, and in about 1592 switched decisively to sole authorship. This paper argues that in the epigram to Venus and Adonis and, later, in the paratextual line “The words of Mercury are harsh after the songs of Apollo” at the end of Love's Labour's Lost Shakespeare identified his art as Apollonian: pure, inspired, removed from commerce. Venus and Adonis responds to the attack on Shakespeare in Greene's Groatsworth of Wit (1592), which contradictorily represents Shakespeare as both appropriative upstart and recognisable master of a distinct style. The figure of Richard III reflects Shakespeare's subsequent and aggressive rejection of the consanguinuity of shared labour in favour of a strongly willed authorial self-definition. However, this lonely ideal is ultimately untenable for a dramatist of the professional theatre, as is recognised in the figure of Autolycus in The Winter's Tale. Thus the paper as a whole addresses the emergence of genius as a contingent process dependent on training and commerce.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)318-332
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 2017


  • 3 Henry VI
  • authorship
  • collaboration
  • George Peele
  • Greene's Groatsworth of Wit
  • Love's Labour's Lost
  • paratext
  • Richard III
  • Robert Greene
  • Venus and Adonis


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