Browse our archive of original historical documents on the themes of this book:

- Founding Principles

- Slavery

- Property Rights

- Women and the Right to Vote

- Women and the Family

- Was the Founding Undemocratic? The Property Requirement for Voting

- Poverty and Welfare

- Immigration and the Moral Conditions of Citizenship

- Afterword: Liberals and Conservatives Abandon the Principles of the Founding


Home > Meet the Author > Foreword of Shakespeare as Political Thinker

Shakespeare as Political Thinker:
Contents and Foreword

Shakespeare as Political Thinker, edited by John E. Alvis and Thomas G. West. Second edition, revised and expanded. Wilmington, DE: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000.




The Editors and the Authors

Introductory: Shakespearean Poetry and Politics
    John E. Alvis

The Unity of Tragedy, Comedy, and History: An Interpretation of the Shakespearean Universe
    Harry V. Jaffa

Richard II
    Allan Bloom

God Will Save the King: Shakespeare's Richard II
    Louise Cowan

Shakespeare's Henry IV: A New Prince in a New Principality
    Dain A. Trafton

Spectacle Supplanting Ceremony: Shakespeare's Henry Monmouth
    John E. Alvis

The Two Truths of Troilus and Cressida
    Thomas G. West

Troilus and Cressida: Poetry or Philosophy?
    Christopher Flannery

Nature and the City: Timon of Athens
    Leo Paul S. de Alvarez

Chastity as a Political Principle: An Interpretation of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure
    Harry V. Jaffa

Prospero's Republic: The Politics of Shakespeare's The Tempest
    Paul A. Cantor

The Golden Casket: An Interpretation of The Merchant of Venice
    Barbara Tovey

Shakespeare's Hamlet and Machiavelli: How Not to Kill a Despot
    John E. Alvis

Macbeth and the Gospelling of Scotland
    Paul A. Cantor

Shakespearean Wisdom?
    Michael Platt

Shakespearean Comedy and Tragedy: Implicit Political Analogies
    Robert B. Heilman

Transcendence and Equivocation: Some Political, Theological, and Philosophical Themes in Shakespeare
    Laurence Berns


    The essays collected in this volume proceed from the common conviction that Shakespeare's poetry conveys a wisdom concerning political things commensurate with the charm and vigor that distinguish his artistry. From various vantages the authors have attempted to bring to light the principles of this wisdom. Addressing a range of plays inclusive of Richard II, 1 and 2 Henry IV, Henry V, Measure for Measure, The Tempest, Timon of Athens, Troilus and Cressida, The Merchant of Venice, and the major tragedies, as well as the sonnets, the essays inquire into the significance of politics for Shakespeare's characters and for the poet as thinker.

    Most of the contributors will be found to regard Shakespeare as a poetic exponent of the great tradition of classical political philosophy stemming from Socrates, a tradition whose thoughtfulness has recently been recovered and displayed by such scholars as Leo Strauss. In particular, their essays reveal a general sympathy with the approach developed in a work that is the nearest progenitor of this book, Shakespeare's Politics, by Allan Bloom with Harry V. Jaffa (both of whom have contributed to the present collection, and both of whom were students of Strauss). This predominant grain is brought out by the inclusion of some essays—notably those of Louise Cowan and Robert B. Heilman—which cut across it.

    The themes explored here concern the nature and limits of political life; the origins of Shakespeare’s understanding of politics in Christianity, Machiavelli, and the ancients; perfect and imperfect statesmanship; England, Rome, and the best polity; the link between individual character and political regime; and the relationship between poetry, politics, religion, and philosophy.

    Some of these issues have been all but ignored in previous Shakespearean criticism, and many academic custodians of Shakespeare might contest the propriety of setting poems to answer political and philosophical questions. In some degree, then, these interpretations are provocations, or rather new entries in a continuing controversy.


Home | Preface | Document Library | Book Reviews | Purchase | Meet the Author

This site is a project of the
Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs at Ashland University
The Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy

Send comments to:
[email protected]