About the Author:
Rene Girard is Andrew B. Hammond Professor of French Language, Literature and Civilization at Stanford University, where he is also Professor of Religious Studies and of Comparative Literature. His books include Deceit, Desire, and the Novel, Violence and the Sacred, and The Scapegoat, works for which he has received honors throughout the world.
A Theatre of Envy: William Shakespeareby René Girard
In this groundbreaking work, one of our foremost literary and cultural critics turns to the major figure in English literature, William Shakespeare, and proposes a dramatic new reading of nearly all his plays and poems. The key to A Theater of Envy is Rene Girard's novel reinterpretation of "mimesis." For Girard, people desire objects not for their
In this groundbreaking work, one of our foremost literary and cultural critics turns to the major figure in English literature, William Shakespeare, and proposes a dramatic new reading of nearly all his plays and poems. The key to A Theater of Envy is Rene Girard's novel reinterpretation of "mimesis." For Girard, people desire objects not for their intrinsic value, but because they are desired by someone elsewe mime or imitate their desires. This envyor "mimetic desire"he sees as one of the foundations of the human condition.
Bringing such provocative and iconoclastic insights to bear on Shakespeare, Girard reveals the previously overlooked coherence of problem plays like Troilus and Cressida, and makes a convincing argument for elevating A Midsummer Night's Dream from the status of a chaotic comedy to a masterpiece. The book abounds with novel and provocative interpretations: Shakespeare becomes "a prophet of modern advertising," and the threat of nuclear disaster is read in the light of Hamlet. Most intriguing of all, perhaps, is a brief, but brilliant aside in which an entirely new perspective is brought to the chapter in Joyce's Ulysses in which Stephen Dedalus gives a lecture on Shakespeare. In Girard's view only Joyce, perhaps the greatest of twentieth-century novelists, comes close to understanding the greatest of Renaissance playwrights.
Throughout this impressively sustained reading of Shakespeare Girard's prose is sophisticated, but contemporary, and accessible to the general reader. Anyone interested in literature, anthropology, or psychoanalysis will want to read this challenging book. And all those involved in theatrical production and performance will find A Theater of Envy full of suggestive new ideas.
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