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Political Wisdom in Late Shakespeare : A Way Out of the Wreck - Nicolas McAfee

Political Wisdom in Late Shakespeare

A Way Out of the Wreck

By: Nicolas McAfee

Hardcover | 15 June 2024

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Political Wisdom in Late Shakespeare: A Way Out of the Wreck assesses the four last plays of Shakespeare's First Folio-"Cymbeline," "The Tempest," "Henry VIII," and "The Winter's Tale"-providing underappreciated resources for political thought and reflection. This study examines the ruling communities in each of these plays, exploring what virtues are dramatized as necessary in a courtier's fulfillment of his or her political obligations. By lending courtly virtues close attention, Shakespearean audiences can better appreciate how much a given court has been reformed or could be further improved in the future. Indeed, these four late plays prove remarkably united in their presentation of five virtues-patience, piety, fidelity, clemency, and diligence-which consistently appear desirable for rulers to have and for regimes to encourage. Moreover, the visions of tyranny offered in these plays remind readers how much is at stake should these virtues decay or collapse. The presence or absence of signals whether any political community will, to borrow the language of Henry VIII, chart for themselves "a way out of the wreck."

Industry Reviews

"This study admirably refines our growing awareness of the depth and scope Shakespeare's political wisdom. With masterful attention to the use of dramatic irony in the Bard's four last plays, McAfee demonstrates the complex ways in which vices such as envy and infidelity wound the body politic, and the powerful potential of patience, piety, and other courtly virtues to heal those wounds, to the benefit of rulers and citizens alike."

-- Jason Hebert, St. Ambrose University

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