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Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Despite the play's lack of artistic merit, scholars have long considered The Borderers an important document in the history of Wordsworth's philosophical development. The exact nature and extent of its importance has, however, remained a matter of controversy. Prior to 1926, the most widely accepted interpretation of the play supplemented what the poet had expressed so powerfully in Book XI of The Prelude: at one time during his early manhood, he had been obsessed with the moral and philosophical questions arising out of the French Revolution and out of a rationalistic philosophy to which for a time he had whole-heartedly subscribed. This interpretation of the play, still well received by many scholars, holds that The Borderers reflects Wordsworth's obsession with Godwinism--the designation usually given the philosophy that preoccupied him--and shows the poet at a time when he was beginning to slough off what was for him a sterile and demoralizing creed. After the discovery of the long suppressed Annette Vallon episode, however, some critics saw the possibility of a new interpretation. The poet's concern with the French Revolution and with Godwinism may only have been a reflection of a deeper psychological turmoil. These critics began to interpret the play, as well as many of Wordsworth's other poems, as the poet's attempt to rid himself of the feelings of guilt which had resulted from his love affair. The Borderers became one element in the controversy that arose over the question of what weight should properly be attached to the Annette Vallon matter.
Copyright 1963 Thomas Stewart Lillard
Lillard, Thomas Stewert, "The Role of Nature in the Borderers : A Study of the Interpretations of Wordsworth's Early Drama" (1963). Master's Theses. 809.