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Texts and readers in the Age of Marvell$
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Christopher D'Addario and Matthew Augustine

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781526113894

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526113894.001.0001

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Marvell’s personal elegy? Rewriting Shakespeare in A Poem upon the Death of O. C.

Marvell’s personal elegy? Rewriting Shakespeare in A Poem upon the Death of O. C.

(p.206) 11 Marvell’s personal elegy? Rewriting Shakespeare in A Poem upon the Death of O. C.
Texts and readers in the Age of Marvell

Alex Garganigo

Manchester University Press

‘I saw him dead’ is probably the best-known line in Marvell’s elegy for Cromwell, and most readings advance it as proof of the poem’s personal nature. The poet apparently saw the corpse of the Lord Protector in September 1658. Upon further inspection, however, Marvell’s claim proves less personal and more mediated and ironic than we have thought, directly quoting Hal’s startled response to Falstaff’s rising from the dead in Henry IV, Part 1. Not only does Marvell’s echo of Shakespeare rehearse someone else’s experience (Hal’s stunned mixture of grief, relief, and exasperation at Falstaff’s revival); it also drags along the whole tangle of Hal’s relationships to Falstaff and his father, as both second selves and others. Among the grief and admiration for Cromwell lurks a resentment of being in his shadow, of being forever a servant and client to some great man, even in death.

Keywords:   Andrew Marvell, Oliver Cromwell, William Shakespeare, Elegy, Impersonality

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