Shakespeare as Political Thinker

Shakespeare as Political Thinker

Shakespeare as Political Thinker

Shakespeare as Political Thinker

Synopsis

The essays contained in this book proceed from the common conviction that Shakespeare's poetry conveys a wisdom about politics commensurate with his artistry. Well-known thinkers discuss Shakespeare's understanding of politics, the idea of the best polity, the relationship between character and political life, and the interpenetration of poetry, politics, religion, and philosophy.

Excerpt

Shakespeare owes his pre-eminence among poets to the power that allows his art to charm spectators but equally to the comprehensiveness of his wisdom regarding human things, a wisdom which invites and sustains inquiries into its grounds. The essays here collected presuppose that the charm exists for the sake of the wisdom. The contributors presume that Shakespearean poetry affords something more determinate and responsible than the personalized fabrication of an imagined world answerable only to the requirements of self-coherence. If Shakespeare composes a supreme fiction, its supremacy rests upon its singular comprehensiveness as an image of truth. The poems and plays propose a series of vantages upon the one preconstituted world to which all men share access according to the varying capacities of their intelligence and heart. Shakespeare's acknowledgment that his images subserve truth-- "minding true things by what their mock'ries be"--opens his art to interpretation while imposing the office of critical judgment. Because we know something about the same world he knows, we can interpret his poems and make discriminations between the various claimants to knowledge depicted in his poems. Because we evidently know appreciably less than he knows, the task of interpretation and judgment must proceed under his guidance. Criticism develops as an inquiry, a conversation of non- catechetical query and reply wherein the questioner seeks instruction from his superior even as regards the questions he should ask. For the peculiarly unequal character of this conversation requires that the questioner learn from the poem what questions he should set it to answer. Here too Shakespeare provides guidance.

From the pointed comments which obtrude from time to time in his . . .

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