Shakespeare's Political Realism: The English History Plays

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SUNY Press, Jan 25, 2001 - Political Science - 208 pages
This book provides fresh interpretations of five of Shakespeare s history plays (King John, Richard II, Henry IV, Parts I and II, and Henry V), each guided by the often criticized assumption that Shakespeare can teach us something about politics. In contrast to many contemporary political critics who treat Shakespeare s political dramas as narrow reflections of his time, the author maintains that Shakespeare s political vision is wide-ranging, compelling, and relevant to modern audiences. Paying close attention to character and context, as well as to Shakespeare s creative use of history, the author explores Shakespeare s views on perennially important political themes such as ambition, legitimacy, tradition, and political morality. Particular emphasis is placed on Shakespeare s relation to Machiavelli, turning repeatedly to the conflict between ambition and justice. In the end, Shakespeare s history plays point to the limits of politics even more pessimistically than Machiavelli s realism.

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King John
King Richard II
King Henry IV Parts 1 and 2
King Henry V
Conclusion Shakespeare
The Omission of the Magna Carta

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About the author (2001)

Tim Spiekerman is Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science at Kenyon College.

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