Shame in Shakespeare

Shame in Shakespeare

Shame in Shakespeare

Shame in Shakespeare

Synopsis

One of the most intense and painful of our human passions, shame is typically seen in contemporary culture as a disability or a disease to be cured. Shakespeare's ultimately positive portrayal of the emotion challenges this view. Drawing on philosophers and theorists of shame, Shame in Shakespeare analyzes the shame and humiliation suffered by the tragic hero, providing not only a new approach to Shakespeare but a committed and provocative argument for reclaiming shame. The volume provides: ¿ an account of previous traditions of shame and of the Renaissance context ¿ a thematic map of the rich manifestations of both masculine and feminine shame in Shakespeare ¿ detailed readings of Hamlet , Othello , and King Lear ¿ an analysis of the limitations of Roman shame in Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus ¿ a polemical discussion of the fortunes of shame in modern literature after Shakespeare. The book presents a Shakespearean vision of shame as the way to the world outside the self. It establishes the continued vitality and relevance of Shakespeare and offers a fresh and exciting way of seeing his tragedies.

Excerpt

In our century, the field of literary studies has rarely been a settled, tranquil place. Indeed, for over two decades, the clash of opposed theories, prejudices and points of view has made it more of a battlefield. Echoing across its most beleaguered terrain, the student's weary complaint 'Why can't I just pick up Shakespeare's plays and read them?' seems to demand a sympathetic response.

Nevertheless, we know that modern spectacles will always impose their own particular characteristics on the vision of those who unthinkingly don them. This must mean, at the very least, that an apparently simple confrontation with, or pious contemplation of, the text of a 400-year-old play can scarcely supply the grounding for an adequate response to its complex demands. For this reason, a transfer of emphasis from 'text' towards 'context' has increasingly been the concern of critics and scholars since World War II: a tendency that has perhaps reached its climax in more recent movements such as new historicism or cultural materialism.

A consideration of the conditions - social, political or economic - within which the play came to exist, from which it derives and to which it speaks, will certainly make legitimate demands on the attention of any well-prepared student nowa-days. Of course, the serious pursuit of those interests will also inevitably start to undermine ancient and inherited prejudices, such as the supposed distinction between 'foreground' and 'background' in literary studies. And even the slightest awareness of the pressures of gender and of race, or the most cursory glance at the role played by that strange creature

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