Eight Tragedies of Shakespeare: A Marxist Study

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The seventeenth century saw the brief flowering of tragic drama in western Europe as a whole and in England in particular. It was, argues Victor Kiernan, the artistic expression of the consciousness of change which permeated every aspect of life during this period.

In this companion volume to Shakespeare: Poet and Citizen Kiernan sets out to rescue Shakespearean studies from the increasingly solipsistic terrain of literary criticism, focusing instead on historical location as a ...

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Overview

The seventeenth century saw the brief flowering of tragic drama in western Europe as a whole and in England in particular. It was, argues Victor Kiernan, the artistic expression of the consciousness of change which permeated every aspect of life during this period.

In this companion volume to Shakespeare: Poet and Citizen Kiernan sets out to rescue Shakespearean studies from the increasingly solipsistic terrain of literary criticism, focusing instead on historical location as a means to understanding Shakespeare’s writing. Kiernan contends that the deep and accelerating changes in economy and society, brought about by the development of modern capitalism, drew the underlying tragic tensions of the History plays to the forefront.

Other writers were feeling similar influences and across Western Europe, especially in France and Spain, tragic drama became a popular form. Kiernan shows how England’s supremacy in this genre was both a mirror and a result of the profound nature of its social and economic development and the uncertainty and anxiety which it created.

Opening with a sketch of the progress of the theatre, Kiernan goes on to provide a portrait of Shakespeare as a professional. He then considers each of the eight tragedies from Julius Caesar to Coriolanus, drawing out their contrasts and recurring themes. In a final section he analyses the group as a whole and explores attitudes to the monarchy, political life, war, religion and philosophy and the relationship between the sexes.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Victor Kiernan is one of the best historians of seventeenth-century England, and he is also a sensitive literary critic.”—Christopher Hill (in praise of Shakespeare: Poet and Citizen)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781859840894
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 4/28/1996
  • Pages: 1
  • Product dimensions: 6.05 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword
Pt. I Programmatic
Pt. II Introductory
1 The Condition of England 19
2 The Theatre 25
3 Shakespeare and Tragedy 29
4 The Tragic Road 37
5 The Others 42
Pt. III The Plays
1 Julius Caesar (1598-99) 53
2 Hamlet (1600-01) 63
3 Othello (1603-04) 88
4 King Lear (1605-06) 104
5 Macbeth (1606) 124
6 Timon of Athens (1606-08) 140
7 Antony and Cleopatra (1606-08) 154
8 Coriolanus (1608) 173
Pt. IV Tragic Themes
1 The Hero 191
2 Villains and Revengers 206
3 Man and Superman 214
4 War 222
5 Political Shadows 228
6 Women and Men 239
7 Religion and Philosophy 252
8 Endings and Beginnings 264
Bibliography 275
Index 283
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