Lynne Magnusson

Professor of English; Graduate Faculty; Undergraduate Instructor
Jackman Humanities Building, Room 922, 170 St. George Street, Toronto, ON M5R 2M8


Areas of Interest

  • Shakespeare
  • Early Modern Literature and Culture
  • Renaissance Drama
  • Language, Discourse Analysis, Rhetoric
  • Genre of the Letter
  • Early Modern Women Writers
  • Linguistic Approaches to Literature


Lynne Magnusson is a Professor of English at the University of Toronto, where she has served as Graduate Director and Associate Chair (2014-17) and as Director of the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies (2010-2014). Immediately prior to her appointment at Toronto in 2003, she was Professor of English at Queen’s University, Kingston (2000-2003), and she spent much of her early career at the University of Waterloo (1984-1999). There, she co-directed the biennial International Elizabethan Theatre Conferences, contributed to the development of innovative graduate programs in rhetoric and discourse analysis, and served both as Acting Chair and Associate Chair for Graduate Studies. Her first full-time appointment was as a CLTA in English at Toronto (1981-84). Over the years, she has held Visiting Fellowships at All Souls College, Oxford and at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

The impact of her research in early modern studies has been recognized by her election in 2014 as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the award in 2008-9 of the prestigious Killam Research Fellowship, and SSHRC fellowships throughout her career. She has served as an elected Trustee of the Shakespeare Association of America, on the editorial board of Shakespeare Quarterly, and as co-General Editor of two book series at The Arden Shakespeare. She has twice directed programs at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, and, in 2015, delivered the annual Shakespeare Birthday Lecture. She takes great delight in the accomplishments of the many talented students, graduate and undergraduate, she has had the opportunity to teach and to supervise.

Lynne Magnusson’s publications have developed innovative approaches to Shakespeare’s language and to the social rhetoric of the early modern letter. She has always been fascinated with how language works both in literature and in life, and often explores convergences between current interdisciplinary approaches to language and the Renaissance arts of language. She has written and published on early modern women’s writing; Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, prose, and poetry (including John Donne); Renaissance education; discourse analysis and historical pragmatics. She is at home both in the early modern manuscript archive and in the investigation of early modern digital corpora. She has just completed The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare’s Language, and is at work on a SSHRC-funded study of Shakespeare’s Language and the Grammar of Possibility. Other long-term projects include the Norton Critical edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets and a book on The Transformation of the English Letter, 1500-1620.



The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare’s Language. Ed. with D. Schalkwyk. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, forthcoming 2019.

Scholarly edition: Shakespeare’s Sonnets and “A Lover’s Complaint.” Textual edition in The Norton Shakespeare, 3E. Gen. ed. S. Greenblatt, S. Gossett and G. McMullan. New York: W. W. Norton, 2016.

Reading Shakespeare’s Dramatic Language. Co-authored and co-ed. with S. Adamson, L. Hunter, A. Thompson, and K. Wales. London: Arden Shakespeare, 2001.

Shakespeare and Social Dialogue: Dramatic Language and Elizabethan Letters. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Paperback and electronic editions, 2006.

The Elizabethan Theatre XV: Collaboration and Nation. Ed. with C. E. McGee. Toronto: P.D. Meany, 2002.

The Elizabethan Theatre XIV: Women and the Elizabethan Theatre. Ed. with C. E. McGee. Toronto: P.D. Meany, 1996.

The Elizabethan Theatre XIII: Actors and Acting. Ed. with C. E. McGee. Toronto: P.D. Meany, 1994.

The Elizabethan Theatre XII: The Language of the Theatre. Ed. with C. E. McGee. Toronto: P.D. Meany, 1992.

The Elizabethan Theatre XI: The Theatre of the 1580s. Ed. with C. E. McGee. Port Credit: P.D. Meany, 1990.

Recent Chapters and Articles

“Thomas Thorpe’s Shakespeare: ‘The Only Begetter.’” Shakespeare’s Sonnets: The State of Play. Ed. H Crawforth et al. London: Arden Shakespeare, 2017. Pp. 33-54.

“Mixed Messages and Cicero Effects in the Herrick Family Letters of the Sixteenth Century.” Cultures of Correspondence in Early Modern Britain. Ed. J. Daybell and A. Gordon. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016. Pp. 131-55.

“Shakespearean Tragedy and the Language of Lament.” Oxford Handbook of Shakespearean Tragedy. Ed. M. Neill and D. Schalkwyk. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. Pp. 120-34.

“‘What may be and should be’: Grammar Moods and the Invention of History in 1 Henry VI.” Shakespeare’s World of Words. Ed. P. Yachnin. London: Arden Shakespeare, 2015. Pp. 147-70.

Podcast and typescript of “Shakespeare and the Language of Possibility,” Folger Shakespeare Library’s Birthday Lecture, April 2015

Shakespeare's Birthday Lecture: "Shakespeare and the Language of Possibility"

“Grammatical Theatricality in Richard III: Schoolroom Queens and Godly Optatives.” Shakespeare Quarterly 64.1 (Spring 2013): 32-43.

“Language,” The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare, ed. Arthur Kinney (Oxford: Oxford University Press, December 2011), 239-57;

“Imagining a National Church: Election and Education in the Works of Anne Cooke Bacon,” The Intellectual Culture of Puritan Women: 1558-1680, ed. Johanna Harris and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 42-56;

“Danger and Discourse,” The Oxford Handbook of John Donne. ed. Jeanne Shami, Dennis Flynn, and Thomas Hester (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 743-55;

“Letters,” The History of British Women’s Writing, 1500-1610, ed. Caroline Bicks and Jennifer Summit (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 130-51;

“A Play of Modals: Grammar and Potential Action in Early Shakespeare,” Shakespeare Survey 62 (2009): 69-80;

“To ‘gase so much at the fine stranger’: Armado and the Politics of English in Love’s Labour’s Lost,” The Cultures of Performance, ed. Paul Yachnin and Patricia Badir (Aldershot, England and Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 2008), 53-68;

“A Pragmatics for Interpreting Shakespeare's Sonnets 1 to 20: Dialogue Scripts and Erasmian Intertexts,” Methods in Historical Pragmatics: Approaches to Negotiated Meaning in Historical Contexts, ed. Susan M. Fitzmaurice and Irma Taavitsainen (Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 2007), 167-84;

“Donne's Language: The Conditions of Communication,” The Cambridge Companion to John Donne, ed. Achsah Guibbory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 183-200;

“Shakespeare’s Sonnets: A Modern Perspective,” Shakespeare’s Sonnets and Poems, Folger Shakespeare Library, ed. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine (New York and London: Washington Square Press, 2006), 627-38 (reprint);

Janelle Jenstad, Peter Lichtenfels, and Lynne Magnusson (co-authors), “Text and Voice,” Shakespeare, Language and the Stage, ed. Lynette Hunter and Peter Lichtenfels (London: Arden Shakespeare, 2005), 10-37;

“Scoff Power in Love's Labour's Lost and the Inns of Court: Language in Context,” Shakespeare Survey 57 (2004): 196-208;

“A Rhetoric of Requests: Genre and Linguistic Scripts in Elizabethan Women's Suitors' Letters,” Women and Politics in Early Modern England, 1450-1700, ed. James Daybell (Aldershot and Burlington: Ashgate Publishing, 2004), 51-66;

“Bacon [Cooke], Anne, Lady Bacon (c.1528–1610),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004);

“‘Voice Potential': Language and Symbolic Capital in Othello,’ Shakespeare and Language, ed. Catherine M. S. Alexander (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 213-25 (reprint);

Shakespeare’s Sonnets: A Modern Perspective,” Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Folger Shakespeare Library, ed. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine (New York and London: Washington Square Press, 2004), 355-69;

“Shakespeare's Non-Dramatic Poetry,” Shakespeare: An Oxford Guide, ed. Stanley Wells and Lena Cowen Orlin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 286-299;

“Reading: Shakespeare's Sonnets,” Shakespeare: An Oxford Guide, ed. Stanley Wells and Lena Cowen Orlin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 300-7;

“Language and Comedy,” The Cambridge Companion to Shakespearean Comedy, ed. Alexander Leggatt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 156-78;

“Widowhood and Linguistic Capital: The Rhetoric and Reception of Anne Bacon's Epistolary Advice,” English Literary Renaissance 31 (2001): 3-33

“Rhetoric, Linguistics and Early Modern Women's Writing: Sentences for a Woman's Use,” Palgrave Advances in Early Modern Women's Writing, ed. Suzanne Trill (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming)

“Shakespeare's Sonnets,” The Shakespeare Encyclopedia, ed. Patricia Parker (Greenwood Publishing, forthcoming)

Current Research

Works in progress include a book on The Transformation of the English Letter, 1500-1620, a second book on ways to rethink Shakespeare’s language historically, and an edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets.


BA, University of Manitoba
MA, University of Toronto
PhD, University of Toronto