Tyrant by Stephen Greenblatt
Shakespeare on Politics

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The book may have begun as a newspaper article, drawing lessons from Shakespeare on the eve of the 2016 presidential election, but mostly the reader is left to draw his or her lessons for the present.
-Guardian

Synopsis

World-renowned Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt explores the playwright’s insight into bad (and often mad) rulers.

As an aging, tenacious Elizabeth I clung to power, a talented playwright probed the social causes, the psychological roots, and the twisted consequences of tyranny. In exploring the psyche (and psychoses) of the likes of Richard III, Macbeth, Lear, Coriolanus, and the societies they rule over, Stephen Greenblatt illuminates the ways in which William Shakespeare delved into the lust for absolute power and the catastrophic consequences of its execution.

Cherished institutions seem fragile, political classes are in disarray, economic misery fuels populist anger, people knowingly accept being lied to, partisan rancor dominates, spectacular indecency rules―these aspects of a society in crisis fascinated Shakespeare and shaped some of his most memorable plays. With uncanny insight, he shone a spotlight on the infantile psychology and unquenchable narcissistic appetites of demagogues―and the cynicism and opportunism of the various enablers and hangers-on who surround them―and imagined how they might be stopped. As Greenblatt shows, Shakespeare’s work, in this as in so many other ways, remains vitally relevant today.

 

About Stephen Greenblatt

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Stephen Greenblatt (Ph.D. Yale) is Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. Also General Editor of The Norton Shakespeare, he is the author of eleven books, including The Swerve: How the World Became Modern; Shakespeare's Freedom; Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare; Hamlet in Purgatory; Practicing New Historicism; Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World; and Learning to Curse: Essays in Early Modern Culture. 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 Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England, 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.
 
Published May 8, 2018 by W. W. Norton & Company. 217 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Tyrant
All: 3 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 0

Kirkus

Above average
on Feb 20 2018

An incisive and instructive study of personality politics and the abuse of power—topical literary criticism with classical virtues.

Read Full Review of Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics | See more reviews from Kirkus

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by John Mullan on Jul 06 2018

The book may have begun as a newspaper article, drawing lessons from Shakespeare on the eve of the 2016 presidential election, but mostly the reader is left to draw his or her lessons for the present.

Read Full Review of Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics | See more reviews from Guardian

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Robert McCrum on Jul 01 2018

Tyrant is Greenblatt’s answer, a highly entertaining rhetorical exercise tinged with sinister intimations of dread. A lifelong Shakespeare scholar, he has turned to the collected works to construct a grammar of tyranny based on Shakespeare’s plays...

Read Full Review of Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics | See more reviews from Guardian

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