sábado, 24 de junio de 2017

We know little of Shakespeare’s political opinions, but there’s much we can learn of them from the recurrent themes of his works

Shakespeare’s Politics


From London to Paris to Alexandria, Virginia—to say nothing of Central Park—there is no shortage of drama in politics at the present moment. One cannot help but wonder what the great Bard of Stratford-upon-Avon would make of it—or, more to the point, how he would memorialize it on the stage.

Wondering what he thought, however, is probably the best we can do. While we know much of Shakespeare’s life, we know little of his opinions. Many of his plays are political, to be sure. His feeling for politics was so strong that one political figure in Britain believed his plays must have been written by someone who had personal experience of politics.1 This was the wrong conclusion. A keen feeling for politics runs through Shakespeare’s plays because man is a political animal and Shakespeare’s understanding of men meant he understood politics, too.

The reason we know little of Shakespeare’s politics is that he was a master playwright. He does not lecture. His characters speak, and we can only guess which of them, if any, speak for him. But some themes recur; and some messages in the action of his plays are too powerful to miss.

Such themes are most abundant in the four plays written at the height of Shakespeare’s powers. In Polonius’s classification, they are tragical-comical-historical. They are about the state in moments of stress, and about individual men acting politically.

In these four plays, six themes emerge: 
- the importance of order; 
- the perils of regicide; 
- the qualities of the king; 
- the dangers of ambition; 
- the volatility of crowds; and 
- the risks of ungoverned power.


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