Commendatory verse - poetry written by one author specifically to commend the work of another - presents a window on English Renaissance literary culture. This study examines particularly the paratextual functions of commendatory poetry and the relationship of those functions to contemporary Renaissance conceptions of authorship. Chapters examine the poem as an advertisement for the book to which it is attached and its role in book-selling, the state of patronage, the way the writers promoted themselves through the poems they wrote for others (with Ben Jonson serving as an example), the poems' influence on reader response, with a discussion of William Shakespeare, examining the interplay of personal agency and cultural work in the liminary material of "Mr William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories and Tragedies". One appendix identifies the original material of all commendatory poems written by Ben Jonson, and another identifies all printed drama before 1641 accompanied by commendatory verse.
Presenting the book; presenting the writer; presenting the self; presenting art; defining authorship; creating "William Shakespeare". Appendices: works with commendatory poems by Ben Jonson; Renaissance drama printed with commendatory verse.