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Tyrant : Shakespeare on Politics
by Stephen Greenblatt


Overview -

As an aging, tenacious Elizabeth I clung to power, a talented playwright probed the social causes, the psychological roots, and the twisted consequences of tyranny. In exploring the psyche (and psychoses) of the likes of Richard III, Macbeth, Lear, Coriolanus, and the societies they rule over, Stephen Greenblatt illuminates the ways in which William Shakespeare delved into the lust for absolute power and the catastrophic consequences of its execution.  Read more...


 
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    Tyrant (Paperback)
    Published: 2019-05-01
    Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
    $13.95
     
     
 
 

More About Tyrant by Stephen Greenblatt
 
 
 
Overview

As an aging, tenacious Elizabeth I clung to power, a talented playwright probed the social causes, the psychological roots, and the twisted consequences of tyranny. In exploring the psyche (and psychoses) of the likes of Richard III, Macbeth, Lear, Coriolanus, and the societies they rule over, Stephen Greenblatt illuminates the ways in which William Shakespeare delved into the lust for absolute power and the catastrophic consequences of its execution.

Cherished institutions seem fragile, political classes are in disarray, economic misery fuels populist anger, people knowingly accept being lied to, partisan rancor dominates, spectacular indecency rules--these aspects of a society in crisis fascinated Shakespeare and shaped some of his most memorable plays. With uncanny insight, he shone a spotlight on the infantile psychology and unquenchable narcissistic appetites of demagogues--and the cynicism and opportunism of the various enablers and hangers-on who surround them--and imagined how they might be stopped. As Greenblatt shows, Shakespeare's work, in this as in so many other ways, remains vitally relevant today.


 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780393635751
  • ISBN-10: 0393635759
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
  • Publish Date: May 2018
  • Page Count: 224
  • Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.75 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Literary Criticism > Shakespeare
Books > Political Science > Political Ideologies - Fascism & Totalitarianism
Books > Drama > Shakespeare

 
BookPage Reviews

Everybody wants to rule the world

Pulitzer Prize winner and Harvard professor Stephen Greenblatt (The Swerve) makes no secret of the fact that this compact study of the portrayal of tyrants in the work of William Shakespeare was inspired by his dismay over the election of Donald Trump as president in 2016. But even those who don’t share Greenblatt’s political perspective should find his well- informed survey of the making and unmaking of autocratic rulers to be instructive and entertaining.

Tyrant ranges across an ample array of Shakespeare’s dramatic works as Greenblatt explores Shakespeare’s fascination with the “deeply unsettling question: how is it possible for a whole country to fall into the hands of a tyrant?” Describing Shakespeare as a “supreme master of displacement and strategic indirection,” he explains how, by never placing his politically charged stories in a contemporary setting, the playwright was able to deftly illuminate the political struggles of the Elizabethan Age without risking his safety.

Whether Shakespeare was using his plays to expose how a budding tyrant could capitalize on the infighting of political factions to ascend to power, or how another might promote a populism that “look[s] like an embrace of the have-nots” but is “in reality a form of cynical exploitation,” Greenblatt credits the Bard as both an astute observer of the political world and an acute judge of human character. And for all the havoc wreaked by monstrous characters like Macbeth and Richard III, Greenblatt argues, Shakespeare believed in their ultimate doom. Concluding this lively book on an optimistic note, he points to the “political action of ordinary citizens” as the antidote for a threat that will persist as long as there are leaders and people demanding to be led.

 

This article was originally published in the May 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews