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Shakespeare’s Universal Wolf

Hugh Grady

Published in print October 1996 | ISBN: 9780198130048
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191671906 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198130048.001.0001
Shakespeare’s Universal Wolf

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William Shakespeare was neither a Royalist defender of order and hierarchy nor a consistently radical champion of social equality, but rather simultaneously radical and conservative as a critic of emerging forms of modernity. This book argues that Shakespeare's social criticism in fact often parallels that of critics of modernity from our own Postmodernist era: that the broad analysis of modernity produced by Karl Marx, Max Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno, Michel Foucault, and others can serve as a productive enabling representation and critique of the emerging modernity represented by the image in Troilus and Cressida of ‘an universal wolf’ of appetite, power, and will. The readings in this book demonstrate Shakespeare's keen interest in what twentieth-century theory has called ‘reification’ — a term that designates social systems created by human societies, but that confronts those societies as operating beyond human control, according to an autonomous ‘systems’ logic — in nascent mercantile capitalism, in power-oriented Machiavellian politics, and in the scientistic, value-free rationality which Horkheimer and Adorno call ‘instrumental reason’.

Keywords: William Shakespeare; social criticism; reification; Karl Marx; Max Horkheimer; Theodor Adorno; Michel Foucault; instrumental reason

Book.  252 pages. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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