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Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics Paperback – 14 May 2019
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Elegant and deftly written.--Eliot A. Cohen
In this brilliant, beautifully organized, exceedingly readable study of Shakespeare's tyrants and their tyrannies--their dreadful narcissistic follies, their usurpations and their craziness and their cruelties, their arrogant incompetence, their paranoid viciousness, their falsehoods and their flattery hunger--Stephen Greenblatt manages to elucidate obliquely our own desperate (in Shakespeare's words) 'general woe.'--Philip Roth
Greenblatt is especially fine on the mechanisms of tyranny, its ecology, so to speak, leaving one deeply moved all over again by Shakespeare's profound and direct understanding of what it is to be human--which includes, alas, being a tyrant.--Simon Callow
Rarely have these blood-soaked creatures seemed so recognizably human and so contemporary.--John Lithgow
Greenblatt shows us not only that Shakespeare's writings can serve as a brilliant guide to the mess of our current politics but also that he--Greenblatt, that is--is perfectly well able to give us an account of them.
Shakespeare lived five centuries ago, yet Greenblatt's book has the feel of a series of urgent and very contemporary dispatches.
Mr. Greenblatt breaks with the traditional assumption that Shakespeare must have been an uncritical admirer of monarchy. The Shakespeare that this book reveals is not only able to tell a bad king from a good but willing to raise serious doubts about monarchy as a regime.
An engaging study of some of the most eloquent despots on stage.
About the Author
Stephen Greenblatt (Ph.D. Yale) is Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. Also General Editor of The Norton Anthology of English Literature, he is the author of eleven books, including Tyrant, The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve: The Story that Created Us, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (winner of the 2011 National Book Award and the 2012 Pulitzer Prize); Shakespeare's Freedom; Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare; Hamlet in Purgatory; Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World; Learning to Curse: Essays in Early Modern Culture; and Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare. He has edited seven collections of criticism, including Cultural Mobility: A Manifesto, and is a founding coeditor of the journal Representations. His honors include the MLA's James Russell Lowell Prize, for both Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England and The Swerve, the Sapegno Prize, the Distinguished Humanist Award from the Mellon Foundation, the Wilbur Cross Medal from the Yale University Graduate School, the William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre, the Erasmus Institute Prize, two Guggenheim Fellowships, and the Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of California, Berkeley. He was president of the Modern Language Association of America and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
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Some other reviews complain that Tyrant is a thinly veiled criticism of Trump and the Trump administration, but that is not because Greenblatt wrote a criticism of Trump and called an examination of Shakespeare. It is because Greenblatt wrote about Shakespeare's criticism of tyrants. If you don't think Trump is a budding tyrant but still see the parallels to tyrannical characters, perhaps you should think about that connection more.
All in all, Tyrant is a very well written work on Shakespeare's characters, plays, and the playwright's exploration of political power and I would recommend it.
A good if chilling look at how deeply Shakespeare could look into the soul of ANY country and its people.
the theme of tyrants that is applicable to so many situations today in the world and is applicable to trends
in the United States. A quick and thoughtful read,