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Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics

Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics

Stephen Greenblatt


An analysis of Shakespeare's treatment of tyranny in several plays: the Henry VI series, Richard III, Macbeth, King Lear, A Winter's Tale, and Coriolanus. All fascinating discussions as they stand, written by an individual who's clearly a deep Shakespeare scholar – but also cleverly addressing contemporary political themes and events. Make England Great Again!

As with much such scholarship, it often begs the question of how much Shakespeare really meant what is imputed to him: to what extent is his writing a mirror onto which we can project any theme of interest? Perhaps that's not such an interesting question in this case, though, as the reflections cast by the plays – histories and tragedies, including a couple considerably less well-read or -performed in modern times – are really illuminating of the timelessness of events that sometimes feel like they're uniquely modern, rather than be reiterations at some level of eternal themes. The power of this is shown by the fact that this book was published well before some of the events that it parallels, such as the 6 January 2021 storming of the US Capitol. That I think makes clear the depth of the historical context.

5/5. Finished 08 June 2021.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

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