Negative Capability

(128 words)
  • Editors

Literary/ Cultural Context Note

A definition of the poet's peculiar ability which was coined by John Keats in a letter of 21 or 27 December 1817 to his brothers George and Tom Keats:

"& at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in Literature, & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously—I mean Negative Capability, that is when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason—Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half knowledge. This pursued through Volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a g…
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Citation:
Editors. "Negative Capability". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 25 May 2005
[http://litencyc.com/php/stopics.php?rec=true&UID=766, accessed 23 October 2014.]