Shakespeare as Political Thinker

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

INTRODUCTORY:
SHAKESPEAREAN POETRY
AND POLITICS

John E. Alvis

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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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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