Tzachi Zamir

in The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199566105
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature


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Shakespeare's poems and plays frequently offer sententious speculations about life and its meaning; about love, friendship, trust, and pain; about language; about action; and about the theatricality that imbues action. This article, which argues that philosophy is the reflective activity whereby such existential spheres and processes are rigorously examined, explores Shakespeare's philosophical import, historicizing his philosophical relevance. It examines Sonnet 71 in detail, noting that a Shakespearean sonnet is an action performed in language whereby a distinct thread of love is being created. The article also discusses whether a particular poetic articulation is a truth claim rather than an idiosyncratic assertion. Finally, it notes the fascinating quality of Shakespeare's language, suggesting that the intensity of a work is predicated on its descriptive density, and on its power to metamorphose weak and marginal movements of thought and feeling into moments of heightened awareness.

Keywords: moral philosophy; Shakespeare's plays; Sonnet 71; Shakespearean sonnet; descriptive density

Article.  8660 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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