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The Portrait of Mr W.H.

par Oscar Wilde

Prix : 0,99 €
ISBN : 978-1-909782-38-9
Nombre de pages : 100 pages
Langue du livre : en

Thème : English eBooks

“The portrait of Mr W.H. ” is a short story written by Oscar Wilde and published in Blackwood's magazine in 1891. The story is an attempt by Oscar Wilde to uncover the identity of W.H., the mysterious individual to whom Shakespeare's Sonnets are dedicated. In doing so, Wilde produces one of the most spectacular literary essays ever written, and displays the scope of his literary critic talent. One of Oscar Wilde's greatest “tours de force”.


“To The Onlie Begetter Of These Insuing Sonnets Mr W.H. All Happinesse And That Eternitie Promised By Our Ever Living Poet Wisheth The Well-Wishing Adventurer In Setting forth.” Thus reads the dedication of Shakespeare's illustrious Sonnets. This book explores a theory of the identity of Mr W.H.. A theory so enticing that it takes control of successive characters in the book to the extent that they devote their lives, their honour and even their deaths to its proof. It is unclear whether Oscar Wilde himself ascribed to the theory, but he lays it out in such an elegant and convincing way that as you read it, it lends a glow of beauty and comprehension to the Sonnets. Was Wilde serious? You want our opinion? Like any reader, publisher or not, we are entitled to one: we strongly believe Wilde was serious about his theory. We also believe that for Wilde, whether he truly believed that his hypothesis was correct or not does not really matter. As long as the theory created meaning and beauty, and was art about art, then the theory held true, as art being greater than anything and giving life its true meaning through its abolishment of death, the theory is therefore true.

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Literary detective work, or literary theory

Wilde eliminates Lord Pembroke, Lord Southampton, and explains why: W.H. was not an aristocrat, Lord Pembroke did not come to London until after Shakespeare had written the Sonnets, mentions Plato or Montaigne, quotes obscure German commentators, Marlowe, and unveils the true identity of W.H.: the boy actor Willie Hughes, which Shakespeare himself alludes to through a pun: “A man in hew, all Hews in his controwling.”

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The most beautiful thing ever written about the Sonnets, or art theory?

We have selected for you some of the most interesting quotes: “all Art being to a certain degree a mode of acting, an attempt to realise one's own personality on some imaginative plane out of reach of the trammelling accidents and limitations of real life...”. “for the art of which Shakespeare talks in the Sonnets is not the art of the Sonnets themselves, which indeed were to him but slight and secret things- it is the art of the dramatist to which he is always alluding...”; “I saw that the moods and passions they mirrored were absolutely essential to Shakespeare's perfection as an artist writing for the Elizabethan stage, and that it was in the curious theatric conditions of that stage that the poems themselves had their origin. I remember what joy I had in feeling that these wonderful Sonnets...were no longer isolated from the great aesthetic energies of Shakespeare's lie, but were an essential part of his dramatic activity...”; “Yet Shakespeare himself was a player, and wrote for players. He saw the possibilities that lay hidden in an art that up to his time had expressed itself but in bombast or in clowning. He has left us the most perfect rules for acting that have ever been written. He created parts that can be only truly revealed to us on the stage, wrote plays that need the theatre for their full realisation, and we cannot marvel that he so worshipped one who was the interpreter of his vision, as he was the incarnation of his dreams.”; “In Willie Hughes, Shakespeare found not merely a most delicate instrument for the presentation of his art, but the visible incarnation of his idea of beauty...”; “Art, even the art of fullest scope and widest vision, can never really show us the external world. All that it shows us is our own soul, the one world of which we have any real cognizance. And the soul itself, the soul of each one of us, is to each one of us a mystery...It is Art, and Art only, that reveals us to ourselves.”

© 2013- Les Éditions de Londres

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