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Shakespeare and Early Modern Political Thought


Award Winner
David Armitage, Conal Condren, Andrew Fitzmaurice, Cathy Curtis, Stephen Greenblatt, Susan James, Cathy Shrank, Aysha Pollnitz, Jennifer Richards, Phil Withington, David Colclough, Markku Peltonen, Eric Nelson, Quentin Skinner
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  • Date Published: July 2012
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107692503

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About the Authors
  • This is the first collaborative volume to place Shakespeare's works within the landscape of early modern political thought. Until recently, literary scholars have not generally treated Shakespeare as a participant in the political thought of his time, unlike his contemporaries Ben Jonson, Edmund Spenser and Philip Sidney. At the same time, historians of political thought have rarely turned their attention to major works of poetry and drama. A distinguished international and interdisciplinary team of contributors examines the full range of Shakespeare's writings in order to challenge conventional interpretations of plays central to the canon, such as Hamlet; open up novel perspectives on works rarely considered to be political, such as the Sonnets; and focus on those that have been largely neglected, such as The Merry Wives of Windsor. The result is a coherent and challenging portrait of Shakespeare's distinctive engagement with the characteristic questions of early modern political thought.

    • Combines expertise from leading historians and literary scholars, offering the reader a new perspective in Shakespeare studies
    • Provides a broad introduction to the history of early modern political thought - ideal for readers with no background knowledge in this area
    • Covers the full range of Shakespeare's work, both poetry and plays, challenging conventional interpretations
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    • Winner of the Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year 2009

    Reviews & endorsements

    Review of the hardback: '… one of the most important new studies of Shakespeare to have appeared this century. It takes the discussion of Shakespeare and early modern political thought to a hitherto unseen level of sophistication. For the first time, we are offered a serious and sustained reading of Shakespeare in the light of the 'Cambridge school' of work on the language of political theory … contributors come from diverse perspectives … and yet they create a strikingly unified image of a Shakespeare who is at once a deep political thinker, a consummate master of rhetoric and a wily refusenik when it comes to orthodox positions … deserves a prominent place on the bookshelf of anyone interested in Shakespeare - more than that, of anyone interested in the interplay between literature and the history of political thought.' Jonathan Bate, University of Warwick

    Review of the hardback: '… [this] book represents a new synthesis of method and approach, and the definitive starting point for any future exploration of the 'political' Shakespeare.' Ian Donaldson, University of Melbourne

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2012
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107692503
    • length: 304 pages
    • dimensions: 237 x 152 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.49kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction David Armitage, Conal Condren and Andrew Fitzmaurice
    Part I. Contexts:
    1. Shakespeare's properties David Armitage
    2. The active and contemplative lives in Shakespeare's plays Cathy Curtis
    3. Shakespeare and the ethics of authority Stephen Greenblatt
    4. Shakespeare and the politics of superstition Susan James
    Part II. The Court:
    5. Counsel, succession and the politics of Shakespeare's Sonnets Cathy Shrank
    6. Educating Hamlet and Prince Hal Aysha Pollnitz
    7. The corruption of Hamlet Andrew Fitzmaurice
    8. Unfolding 'the properties of government': the case of Measure for Measure and the history of political thought Conal Condren
    9. Shakespeare and the politics of co-authorship: Henry VIII Jennifer Richards
    Part III. The Commonwealth:
    10. Putting the city into Shakespeare's city comedy Phil Withington
    11. Talking to the animals: persuasion, counsel and their discontents in Julius Caesar David Colclough
    12. Political rhetoric and citizenship in Coriolanus Markku Peltonen
    13. Shakespeare and the best state of a commonwealth Eric Nelson
    Afterword: Shakespeare and humanist culture Quentin Skinner.

  • Editors

    David Armitage, Harvard University, Massachusetts
    David Armitage is the Lloyd C. Blankfein Professor of History at Harvard University.

    Conal Condren, University of New South Wales, Sydney
    Conal Condren is a Scientia Professor Emeritus at the University of New South Wales and an Honorary Professor at the Centre for the History of European Discourses, University of Queensland.

    Andrew Fitzmaurice, University of Sydney
    Andrew Fitzmaurice is Associate Professor of History at the University of Sydney.


    David Armitage, Conal Condren, Andrew Fitzmaurice, Cathy Curtis, Stephen Greenblatt, Susan James, Cathy Shrank, Aysha Pollnitz, Jennifer Richards, Phil Withington, David Colclough, Markku Peltonen, Eric Nelson, Quentin Skinner


    • Winner of the Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year 2009

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