Thomas Hobbes' Answer to Davenant's Preface to Gondibert

Thomas Hobbes' Answer to Davenant's Preface to Gondibert

Length: 1078 words (3.1 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Thomas Hobbes' Answer to Davenant's Preface to Gondibert


In his "Answer to Davenant's Preface to Gondibert," Thomas Hobbes takes a stab at literary theory. He is prompted to write the reply because Davenant mentions Hobbes in the preface to the epic poem, Gondibert. Hobbes notes up front that he is hindered in two ways because he is 1) incompetent in poetry and 2) flattered by the praise Davenant has lauded him. These hindrances don't prevent Hobbes from detailing a general theory of poetry. He delineates the different types of poetry, discusses the poet and mode of composition, and addresses issues of form, content, and style. His ideas are based largely on his philosophy of rational thought and empirical evidence.


Hobbes begins by dividing poetry into three types that correspond with the three types of philosophy and the three "regions of mankind." Philosopy can be divided into "celestial, aerial, and terrestrial." Mankind divides itself into "court, city, and country." Poets write about these three different regions of mankind in "three sorts of poesy, heroic, scommatic, and pastoral." Each of these types of poetry can be conveyed in either a narrative or dramatic form. Hobbes writes:


the heroic poem called an epic poem. The heroic poem dramatic is tragedy. The scommatic narrative is satire, dramatic is comedy. The pastoral narrative is called simply pastoral...; the same dramatic, pastoral comedy.


In this way he describes the "six sorts of poesy;" there can be no more or less than that. On the subject of what is a poem, Hobbes reiterates the Aristotelian concept that verse alone does not make poetry. Hobbes sums up the difference between historical or philosophical verse and poetic verse like so:


But the subject of a poem is the manners of men, not natural causes; manners presented, not dictated; and manners feigned, as the name of poesy imports, not found in men.


He goes on to allow that "fictions writ in prose" may be given entrance into the world of poetry because prose delights both in fiction and in style, but, were prose and poetry to contend toe-to-toe, it would be as if prose were "on foot against the strength and wings of Pegasus."


Hobbes addresses briefly the conventions of verse and rhyme in poetry. He iterates that ancient poets created verse to go along with musical accompaniment, which was necessary because of their religious beliefs.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Thomas Hobbes' Answer to Davenant's Preface to Gondibert." 12 Dec 2019

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

William Davenant, Son of Shakespeare? Essay

- ... At this point, he began his first job as a courtier for both the Duchess of Richmond and Fulke Gre-ville, Lord Brooke. Both employers had influential friends who gave Davenant a preview into the world that comes from becoming a successful writer (“Davenant, William” 74). Davenant soon began getting involved in theater through the writing of plays, engaging in diplomacy, and joining the military, making him a true Renaissance Man. In 1624, Davenant married his first of three wives that included Mary Davenant, with whom he had two children, Dame Anne Cademan, who had four sons of her own, and Henrietta Marie du-Tremblay, with whom he had seven sons (“Davenant, William” 75)....   [tags: English poet and playwright]

Research Papers
937 words (2.7 pages)

My Guided Activity Required The Class For Separate Colored Candies And Answer Questions

- My guided activity required the class to separate colored candies and answer questions in a group setting according to the colors. Questions for this activity varied in addressing different aspects of an individual’s life, such as things that may be worrying them or activities and hobbies they like to do for fun. The foundation of the activity is to facilitate conversation in a group setting and can be tailored to particular subjects which needs to be addressed. The ability for this activity to be tailored is one of the many reasons I choose it....   [tags: Question, Answer, Questions]

Research Papers
879 words (2.5 pages)

Essay on Question and Answer

- All) The Invisible knapsack of white privilege concept is the fact that all people are still treated differently based on the color of their skin except for whites. Racism today is not always the same as racism in the past. Horrific incidents of overt racism still occur and hate groups still exist, but the racism of today is much more subtle than the past. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "The absence of brutality and unregenerate evil is not the presence of justice." The racism that exists today quietly benefits and privileges whites in terms of what they receive from systems and society....   [tags: Question and Answer]

Research Papers
950 words (2.7 pages)

A Interview Assessment Is An Individual 's Personality By Having The Individual Answer Questions About Themselves

- Self-Interview Rubi Garza Texas A&M International University The purpose of the Self- Interview assessment is to measure an individual’s personality by having the individual answer questions about themselves through the S-data approach and in a qualitative methodological way. The reliability, validity, and generalizability of the assessment are analyzed individually to see how effective they are. The assessment provides results of one’s personality and a personal reflection on their goals, strengths, weaknesses, and life overall....   [tags: Psychometrics, Psychology, Answer, Hobby]

Research Papers
726 words (2.1 pages)

Essay on Book Preface

- Preface The objective of this book is to provide social work students and other professionals working in mental health and substance abuse treatment the fundamental knowledge and skills to assist them in using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) or the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems manual (ICD). Although, in this book, we will use the criteria from the DSM-IV TR, these manuals are the same in many important ways. They both contain a list of similar criteria that is intended to differentiate one disorder from the other....   [tags: Literary Preamble]

Research Papers
771 words (2.2 pages)

Queens Preface Essay

- PREFACE This book, Medieval and Reformation Reigning Queens of England, is a factual narrative on lives of Norman, Plantagenet and Tudor reigning queens from the Norman Conquest of 1066 to the death of Elizabeth I in 1603. Among the thirty-two biographies summarized here are the four royal women who ruled, or tried to rule in her own right: these queens regnant are Empress Matilda, Lady Jane Gray, Queen Mary I and Queen Elizabeth I. They each received the same level of attention in the author’s previous work, Lives of England’s Monarchs (2005), as was given to their male counterparts....   [tags: English Royalty]

Research Papers
1519 words (4.3 pages)

Preface Essay

- Preface Since the early customs union, the European Union has been keen to create a single market for its member states. In this assignment, I am going to discuss to what extent the European Union has created a single integrated economy for its member states. 2. Introduction From the early Customs Union to the Single European Market to the recent Single European Currency—the Euro, the European Union achieved a lot of successes in the process of creating a single integrated economy for its member states in the last fifty years....   [tags: Economics]

Free Essays
2239 words (6.4 pages)

Franklins Preface To Poor Rich Essay

- In Benjamin Franklin&#8217;s preface to Poor Richard Improved, "The Way to Wealth", Franklin offers many adages to help the reader conserve money. Many of these sayings are common even today. The title of this preface makes since because the title, "The Way to Wealth", can be interpreted as The Road to Wealth. If the reader does as these adages tell them, he or she should be on their way to wealth. Franklin offers advice to just about anybody. Franklin believed that wealth was important because it led to both frugality and industry....   [tags: essays research papers]

Research Papers
452 words (1.3 pages)

Castle of Otranto Preface Analysis Essay

- Horace Walpole (1717-1797) invented the Gothic novel in his attempt to blend wildness and imagination of the old romance, in his own words "an attempt to blend the two kinds of romance, the ancient and the modern' in one step altogether, the Castle of Otranto. A novel he claimed to have written immediately after being inspired by a dream, "I waked one morning...from a dream, of which all I could recover was, that I had thought myself in an ancient castle...I saw a gigantic hand in armour. In the evening I sat down and began to write" (Letter, 9th march 1765)....   [tags: European Literature]

Research Papers
1796 words (5.1 pages)

Essay on Samuel Johnson's "Preface to Shakespeare"

- We cannot say that a writer is great just because his writings are great and have stood the test of time. In other words a writer cannot be termed great only because of his antiquity. Dr. Samuel Johnson says in his "Preface to Shakespeare" that a work of literature is great only when it is worth reading. When it lacks excellence, it will be rejected. A work of literature lives only when it has some value. Its value changes from time to time and from age to age. In spite of this changing attitude of the readers towards a literary work, the work must contain some absolute standards if it has to stand the test of time....   [tags: European Literature]

Research Papers
767 words (2.2 pages)

Related Searches

He believes that iambic pentameter is the most suited to heroic verse, especially in English, and that rhyme should be consistent and regular.


From there, Hobbes moves on the the notion of the Muse and inspiration. He writes that he does not subscribe to the notion of invoking the Muse, but he also states that he does not "condemn that heathen custom otherwise than as an accessory to their false religion." For Hobbes, the poet should not be relying on inspiration to give him his words. He notes that trifling with divine spirits could bring a danger, "such as is reported of unskillful conjurers, that mistaking the rites and ceremonious points of their art, call up such spirits as they cannot at their pleasure allay again." Hobbes understands and accepts why the Greeks felt inclined to invoke the Muse, but has a harder time allowing it in his contemporary Christian writers:


But why a Christian should think it an ornament to his poem, either to profane the true God or invoke a false one, I can imagine no cause but a reasonless imitation of custom, of a foolish custom, by which a man, enabled to speak wisely from the principals of nature and his own meditation, loves rather to be thought to speak by inspiration, like a bagpipe.


In statements like this, it becomes apparent that Hobbes holds human knowledge and talent in much higher esteem than a critic such as Plato.


Hobbes determines that in order to write, a poet must possess both Judgement and Fancy. According to Hobbes, "Judgement begets the strength and structure, and Fancy begets the ornaments of a poem." He takes great pains to note that Fancy must be connected to philosophy. Only through the guidance of philosophy can the proper ornamentation be added to a poem. He writes, "He therefore that undertakes a heroic poem, which is to exhibit a venerable and amiable image of heroic virtue, must not only be the poet, to place and connect, but also the philosopher, to furnish and square his matter." Judgement allows a poet to make decisions based upon how the story should be told, but it is Fancy that allows a poet to determine what should be told as well as the meaning of the piece.


Hobbes restricts the subject matter of poetry beyond the Judgement and Fancy of the poet. He writes that poetry is limited by the "resemblance of truth." Truth, for Hobbes, is the physical world as humankind perceives it. He is an empiricist, and looks for evidence to support claims. He writes, "Beyond the actual works of nature a poet may now go; but beyond the conceived possibility of nature, never." A poet can stretch his fiction only so far. Once the subjects of the poem can no longer connect at all with the reality of the world, then the poet has gone too far.


To guide the poet in determining what is fair game for a piece, Hobbes states that a poet must "know well" and "know much." Knowing well will allow a poet to accurately represent his subject as it exists in the "natural world." Hobbes writes:


For in him that profess the imitation of nature, as all poets do, what greater fault can there be than to betray an ignorance of nature in his poem, especially having a liberty allowed him, if he meet with anything he cannot master, to leave it out?


Knowing much aids the poet in his expression. If a poet knows well and much, he will be able to accurately represent reality while expressing this representation in an innovative and interesting light.


Hobbes is convinced that Davenant possesses all of the skills of a poet, and spends the last part of the essay praising Gondibert. While lacking a strain of passion that exists in criticism by literary theorists, it is clear that Hobbes enjoys the experience of reading. He fails to push the envelope of literary theory beyond any of the critics who came before him, but he does bring a refreshing practicality to the discussion.
Return to