Eight Tragedies of Shakespeare: A Marxist Study

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Verso, 1996 - Drama - 296 pages
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The seventeenth century saw the brief flowering of tragic drama in western Europe as a whole and in England in particular. It was, argues Victor Kiernan, the artistic expression of the consciousness of change which permeated every aspect of life during this period.

In this companion volume to Shakespeare: Poet and Citizen Kiernan sets out to rescue Shakespearean studies from the increasingly solipsistic terrain of literary criticism, focusing instead on historical location as a means to understanding Shakespeare's writing. Kiernan contends that the deep and accelerating changes in economy and society, brought about by the development of modern capitalism, drew the underlying tragic tensions of the History plays to the forefront.

Other writers were feeling similar influences and across Western Europe, especially in France and Spain, tragic drama became a popular form. Kiernan shows how England's supremacy in this genre was both a mirror and a result of the profound nature of its social and economic development and the uncertainty and anxiety which it created.

Opening with a sketch of the progress of the theatre, Kiernan goes on to provide a portrait of Shakespeare as a professional. He then considers each of the eight tragedies from Julius Caesar to Coriolanus, drawing out their contrasts and recurring themes. In a final section he analyses the group as a whole and explores attitudes to the monarchy, political life, war, religion and philosophy and the relationship between the sexes.
  

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Contents

The Condition of England
19
The Theatre
25
The Tragic Road
37
Julius Caesar 159899
53
Hamlet 160001
63
Othello 160304
88
King Lcar 160506
104
Macbeth 1606
124
Coriolanns 1608
173
The Hero
191
Villains and Revengers
206
Man and Superman
214
War
222
Political Shadows
228
Women and
239
Religion and Philosophy
252

Timon of Athens 160608
140
Antony and Cleopatra 160608
154

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About the author (1996)

Born near Manchester, V. G. Kiernan was a pupil of the Manchester Grammar School, and then of Trinity College, Cambridge. He then went on to undertake research work in modern diplomatic history, and won a College Fellowship. He was in India for eight years before the Partition, involved in radio
broadcasting during the war, and in teaching at the Aitchison College in Lahore. During his time there he got to know Faiz Ahmed Faiz and other Urdu writers, and began his verse translations of Iqbal, who had died recently in Lahore, and of Faiz. In later years he was given a Personal Chair in
Modern History at the University of Edinburgh, where he wrote a number of books and essays on Asian and European history, and on English Literature. Now retired, he lives in the Scottish Borders, with his wife, Heather.

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