Shakespeare and his tyrants

They had to have grasped that the circumstances the playwright depicted did not line up neatly with their own; they would not, in any case, have wanted to tip their hand.

Their actual numbers may have been few, but the fear and loathing they aroused were considerable.

Shakespeare and his tyrants

When he engaged with fraught historical events—succession crises, corrupt elections, assassinations, the rise of tyrants—these happened in ancient Greece and Rome, or in prehistoric Britain, or in the England of his great-great-grandparents.

The butcher exposes every lie. And they do.

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It is not as if tyrants are crafty individuals, hiding their true natures, for they see nothing wrong with their persona or their naked ambitions. For those with any imagination, there was more to worry about than the stealthy assault of time. It reminds me of all the voter fraud accusations that have been cast about without evidence in recent elections towards one party when the only voter fraud that has come to light has been perpetrated by the party that has cried foul. In France, the Netherlands, and elsewhere they had already been responsible for assassinations, mob violence, and wholesale massacres. But often the language you use, it sounds ripped from the headlines of mainstream American newspapers, or at least their op-eds. Very different as they are, but those are the two I think paradigmatic tyrannical figures in Shakespeare. For Shakespeare, the oblique angle allowed him to lift off the false assumptions, the time-honored beliefs, and the misguided dreams of faith, and to look unwaveringly at what lay beneath. They are drawn irresistibly to normalize what is not normal. The mastermind behind these designs, it was widely believed, was none other than the Pope, in Rome. So remind us what he lays out as options. This New Historicist is also using the past to work out his own questions about our world today. Their immediate goal in England was to kill the queen, crown in her place one of their sympathizers, and subjugate the country to their own twisted vision of piety. What you just heard comes from a new book by the eminent Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt. So how do you think about that—your responsibility as a critic, as an analyzer of the text?

I think he thought that was part of his business model. BOGAEV: Well this leads to me to my next question, which is: is every usurper to a throne a tyrant then, by definition?

Instead, he simply shows someone pondering what he has heard the King say: Exton: Didst thou not mark the King what words he spake?

The playwright never again ventured so close to contemporary politics. His plays probe the psychological mechanisms that lead a nation to abandon its ideals and even its self-interest.

Review of tyrant

This New Historicist is also using the past to work out his own questions about our world today. George Cattermole, 19th century. Take the case of Julius Caesar. For many years she allowed her subjects quietly to hold on to their Catholic beliefs, provided that they outwardly conformed to the official state religion. I can develop this. And then there are characters who fascinate me. He was understandably reluctant to spend time in prison or have his nose slit. King Lear is a victim of his own foolishness; Macbeth is a victim of everything. Once power is gained, by hook or by crook, then begins the game played mostly in the mind of the tyrant of paranoia, fear, and political intrigue that eventually, if things work as they should, leads to his destruction. Even those who advocated for a more aggressive foreign policy or clamored for a harsher crackdown on domestic subversion acknowledged her prudent sense of the limits to her power. The butcher exposes every lie. And there are, Shakespeare thought, always people who manage to escape. Lady Macbeth refers to having breastfed a child, but we also know the two are now childless and unable to conceive. But he represents them in a quite different way as something like what we would think of as the equivalent of the leader of a party.

Now why would you ever think this book and review have anything to do with you? Shakespeare had been a fool to get anywhere close to these struggles. It was not the idle impulse of a moment; at a crucial juncture, when they knew the stakes were life and death, it cost them planning, time, and money.

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Tyranny in Shakespeare