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Of Philosophers and Kings: Political Philosophy in Shakespeare's Macbeth and King Lear [Paperback]

Leon Harold Craig

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Book Description

May 30 2003

This innovative work argues that Shakespeare was as great a philosopher as he was a poet, and that his greatness as a poet derived even more from his power as a thinker than from his genius for linguistic expression. Accordingly, Leon Craig's interpretation of the plays - focusing primarily on Macbeth and King Lear, but including extensive comments on Othello, The Winter's Tale, and Measure for Measure - are intended to demonstrate what can be gained from reading Shakespeare 'philosophically.'

Shakespeare, Craig argues, had a persistent fascination with the relationship between politics and philosophy, and even more precisely, with the idea of a philosophical ruler. Macbeth and King Lear are given detailed exposition for the special light they cast on tensions between philosophy and politics, knowledge and power. They show how the pursuit of an adequate understanding of certain practical issues - transient yet recurring - necessarily leads to considerations that far transcend the particular circumstances in which these practical problems arise. Metaphysics, cosmology, and man's confrontation with nature, were made dramatically manifest by Shakespeare to challenge and promote philosophic activity among his audience and readers.

Unconventional in its approach, but working within the tradition of such critics as Allan Bloom and Harry Jaffa, Craig's book makes a substantial contribution to understanding the general principles of Shakespearean drama.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division; Reprint edition (May 30 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802086055
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802086051
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 15.3 x 3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 626 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,382,939 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'This is an excellent book, one of the best attempts I have seen to look at Shakespeare's plays in light of political philosophy. Indeed it suggests that Shakespeare had his own contribution to make to political philosophy. The book is at once thoughtful, insightful, provocative and eye-opening, and it should be of interest to anyone concerned with Shakespeare.'

(Paul Cantor)

'Craig has articulated a powerful theory that may serve as a guide for a great deal of subsequent interpretation of Shakespeare's plays, and in doing so, he has provided a touchstone by which many contemporary studies of the political importance and understanding of Shakespeare may be (and should be) judged.'

(Joseph Lane)

About the Author

Leon Harold Craig is a professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta.

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