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Shakespeare, Machiavelli, and Montaigne

Hugh Grady

Published in print November 2002 | ISBN: 9780199257607
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191717796 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199257607.001.0001

Series: Oxford English Monographs

Shakespeare, Machiavelli, and Montaigne

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From 1595-1600, Shakespeare dissected the workings of political power in the four histories of the Henriad and in Hamlet in ways which remarkably parallel — and were perhaps influenced by — the ideas of the father of modern political analysis, Niccolò Machiavelli. However, the very same plays simultaneously explored the dynamics of self- and identity formation under new conditions of secular modernity, in the process producing such memorable characters as Richard II, Prince Hal, Falstaff, and Hamlet. The book argues that in analyzing modern subjectivity, Shakespeare re-produced not the ideas of Machiavelli, but those of Michel de Montaigne — that Renaissance definer of shifting identities and subjectivities, and of complexly formed sceptical knowledge. In so doing, Shakespeare in effect contributes to the theoretical debates over power and subjectivity in literary and cultural studies at the dawn of the 21st century, so that the book is also an example of critical ‘presentism’ using historical contexts in its approach. The book argues that older cultural materialist and new historicist approaches were too ‘Machiavellian’ and not ‘Montaignean’ enough in their approaches to subjectivity, and that the agency within Shakespearean concepts of the self needs better definition. It examines these themes in a theoretical introduction and in separate chapters on Shakespeare's parallels with Montaigne, Richard II, 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV, and Henry V, and with a conclusion discussing Hamlet.

Keywords: Shakespeare; Machiavelli; Montaigne; subjectivity; presentism; modernity; Henriad; Richard II; Henry IV

Book.  298 pages. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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Table of Contents

The Reified Worlds of <i>2 Henry IV</i> and <i>Henry V</i> in Shakespeare, Machiavelli, and Montaigne

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Conclusion: <i>Hamlet</i> and the Tragedy of the Subject in Shakespeare, Machiavelli, and Montaigne

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