Category Archives: Shakespeare & his world

a darker As You Like It

CELIA: I’ll put myself in poor and mean attire, And with a kind of umber smirch my face; The like do you; so shall we pass along, And never stir assailants. ROSALIND: Were it not better, Because that I am … Continue reading

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the politics of negative capability

Zadie Smith’s article “Speaking in Tongues” (The New York Review, Feb 26) combines several of the fixations of this blog–literature as an alternative to moral philosophy, deliberation, Shakespeare, and Barack Obama–and makes me think that my own most fundamental and … Continue reading

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people who flop at Oxford

Reading Ingrid Rowland’s very enjoyable and insightful biography of Giordano Bruno, a parallel occurred to me: In 1583, in mortal danger from the Inquisition, a European exile comes to Oxford University in search of a professorship. He has wild and … Continue reading

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The Winter’s Tale

Reading The Winter’s Tale this week reinforced my sense that Shakespeare, in his last years as a playwright, was worried about the power of a dramatist to influence people’s passions and make them believe falsehoods. In both The Winter’s Tale … Continue reading

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Gonzalo’s commonwealth

Gonzalo is the most virtuous character in Shakespeare’s Tempest, a man “whose honor cannot / Be measured or confined” (v,1,135-6). He arrives on Prospero’s island in the company of vile politicians who have organized a coup and are prepared, some … Continue reading

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a true story, a propos of nothing

It is 1617. Edward Coke, until recently the Lord Chief Justice of England and before that the implacable prosecutor of Guy Fawkes, Sir Walter Ralegh, and the Earl of Essex, has been fired by King James for defending the common … Continue reading

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a production of Lear

(Chicago) Last night, I saw King Lear at the Goodman Theater. Stacy Keach was the King, and the director was Robert Falls. It was a “strong” production, in the sense that the director’s choices were bold and potentially controversial. For … Continue reading

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when chivalry died

I just finished James Shapiro’s very enjoyable book entitled A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599, which is about the year when Henry the Fifth, Julius Ceasar, As You Like it, and Hamlet were written. It’s packed with … Continue reading

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Shakespeare in retirement

I recently finished Stephen Greenblatt’s Will in the World, a chronological series of essays about Shakespeare’s life and its influence on his work. It leaves me thinking about the reasons for Shakespeare’s early retirement around 1611. That year he turned … Continue reading

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“every subject’s soul is his own”

(Continuing Friday’s theme. …) There is no doubt, after Nuremberg, that soldiers must question the justification of their side’s conduct during a conflict–and disobey any immoral orders. But should they worry about the purposes and legitimacy of the whole war? … Continue reading

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