Coleridge on Form as Seen in Lectures

Coleridge’s Lectures on Shakespeare reveal a great deal about his thinking; he is consumed by the idea of form and origin. His Lecture expands on previous literary criticisms of Shakespeare as going against mechanic (which is following previously established rules) form. In Coleridge’s view, Shakespeare’s work is genius and grows “organically.” Having Shakespeare operate mechanically would only constrain his genius. Coleridge has not created these categories of organic and mechanic, and is just using them as tools to find flaws in Shakespeare’s critics’ arguments. It is clear, however, that he has respect for the forms by how he expands upon them to make his point. Shakespeare’s work is organic, a “living power,” that grows like a plant (506). He invokes the imagery of “African nature,” and parts of plants to say that Shakepeare’s work follows the laws of nature. This is interesting because his argument is not that Shakespeare does not follow laws or form, just that he does not follow mechanic form. 

This is in line with Coleridge’s fundamental perceptions of the world according to his treatises. In The Stateman’s Manual, he uses the Bible to illustrate a form that politicians and lawmakers should follow in their work. In Chapter 13 of his Biographia Literaria, he creates the ideas of primary and secondary imagination, the idea of “fancy” as a “mode of memory,” and the word “esemplastic” to analyze imagination and the human mind (496). This fits in with the importance that he places on platonic forms and the origins of practices.

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