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THE AUGUSTINIAN SOLILOQUIES OF AN EARLY MODERN READER: A STYLISTIC RELATION OF SHAKESPEARE'S HAMLET?

Julia D. Staykova
Literature and Theology
Vol. 23, No. 2 (June 2009), pp. 121-141
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23927335
Page Count: 21
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THE AUGUSTINIAN SOLILOQUIES OF AN EARLY MODERN READER: A STYLISTIC RELATION OF SHAKESPEARE'S HAMLET?
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Abstract

Augustine's Soliloquia, an early dialogue composed in 386—387 A.D., is a significant precursor of Augustine's interior turn and the dramatised account of his mental life in the Confessions. The present essay suggests that the reception of the Augustinian soliloquy in early modern England was mediated by a compilation that bore the title St. Augustine's Soliloquies but was not written by Augustine. Published under variant titles advertising the devotional practices of its three principal pieces, Meditationes Sancti Augustini, Soliloquiorum animae ad deum, and Manuale de aspiratione hominis ad Deum, the compilation was widely known on the continent and had an energetic reception in England, going through twenty-seven translated editions in the 1550s—1640s alone. In light of the publishing history of the pseudo-Augustinian apocrypha, the essay investigates evidence of the currency of soliloquy in early modern usage, and suggests that the soliloquies in Tudor and early Stuart devotional practice originate in the apocryphal Meditations, Soliloquies and Manual. Finally, after comparing a passage from the apocryphal compilation with Hamlet's soliloquy in I.ii.129—137, the essay argues that early modern devotional soliloquies display significant stylistic similarities to the dramatic soliloquies of the age.

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