Shakespeare as Political Thinker

By John E. Alvis; Thomas G. West | Go to book overview

FOREWORD

The essays collected in this volume proceed from the common conviction that Shakespeare's poetry conveys a wisdom concerning political things commensurate with the charm and vigor that distinguish his artistry. From various vantages the authors have attempted to bring to light the principles of this wisdom. Addressing a range of plays inclusive of Richard II, 1 and 2 Henry IV, Henry V, Measure for Measure, The Tempest, Timon of Athens, Troilus and Cressida, The Merchant of Venice, and the major tragedies, as well as the sonnets, the essays inquire into the significance of politics for Shakespeare's characters and for the poet as thinker.

Most of the contributors will be found to regard Shakespeare as a poetic exponent of the great tradition of classical political philosophy stemming from Socrates, a tradition whose thoughtfulness has recently been recovered and displayed by such scholars as Leo Strauss. In particular, their essays reveal a general sympathy with the approach developed in a work that is the nearest progenitor of this book, Shakespeare's Politics by Allan Bloom with Harry V. Jaffa (both of whom have contributed to the present collection, and both of whom were students of Strauss). This predominant grain is brought out by the inclusion of some essays-- notably those of Louise Cowan and Robert B. Heilman--which cut across it.

The themes explored here concern the nature and limits of political life; the origins of Shakespeare's understanding of politics in Christianity, Machiavelli, and the ancients; perfect and imperfect statesmanship; England, Rome, and the best polity; the link between individual character and political regime; and the relationship between poetry, politics, religion, and philosophy.

-ix-

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Shakespeare as Political Thinker
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Title Page vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Note on the Revised Edition xiii
  • The Editors and Authors xv
  • Introductory- Shakespearean Poetry and Politics 1
  • Notes 24
  • The Unity of Tragedy, Comedy, and History- An Interpretation of the Shakespearean Universe 29
  • Notes 58
  • Richard II 59
  • Notes 69
  • God Will Save the King- Shakespeare''s Richard II 71
  • Notes 89
  • Shakespeare''s Henry IV- A New Prince in a New Principality 93
  • Notes 104
  • Spectacle Supplanting Ceremony- Shakespeare''s Henry Monmouth 107
  • Notes 138
  • The Two Truths of Troilus and Cressida 143
  • Notes 160
  • Troilus and Cressida- Poetry or Philosophy? 163
  • Notes 175
  • Nature and the City- Timon of Athens 177
  • Notes 201
  • Chastity as a Political Principle- An Interpretation of Shakespeare''s Measure for Measure 203
  • Notes 240
  • Prospero''s Republic- The Politics of Shakespeare''s the Tempest 241
  • Notes 258
  • The Golden Casket- An Interpretation of the Merchant of Venice 261
  • Notes 285
  • Shakespeare''s Hamlet and Machiavelli- How Not to Kill a Despot 289
  • Notes 312
  • Macbeth and the Gospelling of Scotland 315
  • Notes 344
  • Shakespearean Wisdom? 353
  • Notes 375
  • Shakespearean Comedy and Tragedy- Implicit Political Analogies 381
  • Note 395
  • Transcendence and Equivocation- Some Political, Theological, and Philosophical Themes in Shakespeare 397
  • Notes 405
  • Index 407
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