ABSTRACT

Not the least of the many links uniting A Lover's Complaint to its author's other writings is its preoccupation with the workings of power, notably, in the instance of this extraordinary poem, the interactions between erotic and linguistic manipulations. 1 Yet, although the role of power in Shakespeare's plays and poems has hardly been neglected either by contemporary critics or their predecessors, one of the principal ways it operates has not received adequate attention. Through a type of speech that can usefully be termed 'authorizers,' speakers in his texts, like those of many other writers, negotiate power, authority, and the often fraught connections between them. Authorizers, this essay argues, are forms of communication like riddles and stories that initiate a process aimed at establishing the authority of the speaker, even, or especially, if it did not exist previously. They typically do so by suspending the rules for quotidian conversation and substituting their own regulations.