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Shakespeare's Ideas: More Things in Heaven and Earth

ISBN: 978-1-4443-5763-9
248 pages
September 2011, Wiley-Blackwell
Shakespeare
An in-depth exploration, through his plays and poems, of the philosophy of Shakespeare as a great poet, a great dramatist and a "great mind".
  • Written by a leading Shakespearean scholar
  • Discusses an array of topics, including sex and gender, politics and political theory, writing and acting, religious controversy and issues of faith, skepticism and misanthropy, and closure
  • Explores Shakespeare as a great poet, a great dramatist and a "great mind"
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Acknowledgements ix

1 A Natural Philosopher 1

2 Lust in Action
Shakespeare's Ideas on Sex and Gender 15

3 What is Honour?
Shakespeare's Ideas on Politics and Political Theory 42

4 Hold the Mirror Up to Nature
Shakespeare's Ideas on Writing and Acting 74

5 What Form of Prayer Can Serve My Turn?
Shakespeare’s Ideas on Religious Controversy and Issues of Faith 106

6 Is Man No More Than This?
Shakespeare's Ideas on Scepticism, Doubt, Stoicism, Pessimism, Misanthropy 143

7 Here Our Play Has Ending
Ideas of Closure in the Late Plays 177

8 Credo 213

Further Reading 218

Index 227

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David Bevington is the Phyllis Fay Horton Distinguished Service Professor the Humanities at the University of Chicago. His numerous publications include The Bantam Shakespeare, in 29 paperback volumes (1988, new edition forthcoming), and The Complete Works of Shakespeare (fifth edition, 2003), as well as the Oxford Shakespeare edition of Henry IV Part I (1987), the New Cambridge Shakespeare edition of Antony and Cleopatra (second edition, 2005), and the Arden Shakespeare edition of Troilus and Cressida (1998). He is the senior editor of the Revels Student Editions, and is a senior editor of the Revels Plays and of the forthcoming Cambridge edition of the works of Ben Jonson. He is also general editor of English Renaissance Drama: A Norton Anthology (2002), and the author of Shakespeare: The Seven Ages of Human Experience (second edition, Blackwell, 2005).
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  • Written by a leading Shakespearean scholar
  • Discusses an array of topics, including sex and gender, politics and political theory, writing and acting, religious controversy and issues of faith, skepticism and misanthropy, and closure
  • Explores Shakespeare as a great poet, a great dramatist and a "great mind"
  • Part of the Blackwell Great Minds series
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"Bevington sees a development in how important Shakespeare felt certain topics were, and so the structure of the book is both chronological and thematic, beginning with the early romances and ending with the dark eschatology of the last plays." (English, December 2010)

“The book ranges across almost the entire canon, bringing together telling moments from an array of texts, but pausing long enough on particular plays to offer nuanced readings. The undergraduate or general reader should enjoy this fluent and well-paced tour through the major plays, and will get a good sense, especially in the first half of the book, of important political, religious and dramatic contexts. The carefully chosen bibliography should stimulate students to explore the ideas summarized here in considerably more detail.” (Times Higher Education Supplement, December 2008)

"Bevington's newest book wears its considerable erudition lightly and, for the most part, well. Bevington (Univ. of Chicago) begins by pointing out that one cannot know the thoughts of Shakespeare the man, but that the plays and poems, looked at as a whole, do present a kind of philosophy--one of balance and moderation. Chapters on sex and gender, politics, writing, religion, and other topics all suggest that though Shakespeare created characters with extreme and wide-ranging views, the world of the plays (and thus perhaps of Shakespeare himself) rewards compassion, understanding, forgiveness, duty, and above all, love. In general, this is not a book for scholars; Bevington does not offer highly theoretical readings or bring up scholarly debates about meaning and textuality. But his immense knowledge of the plays and the era allow him to present complex ideas in an engaging, completely readable manner that will appeal to all readers, no matter their background. Though it offers nothing new to those who study the plays for a living, everyone else will find it a masterpiece of thoughtful investigation into the plays." (Choice, February 2009)

"It's an absorbing journey, and one that will fascinate both general readers and serious scholars alike." (Yorkshire Evening Post, October 2008)

"Lucid, wise and finely balanced, David Bevington's exploration of the ideas at work in Shakespeare is essential reading for beginners and experts alike."
Alexander Leggatt, Professor Emeritus of English, University of Toronto

"Shakespeare’s Ideas offers all that we have come to expect of David Bevington. I cannot think of a better, more judicious scholar to guide us through the complexities of Shakespeare’s political and moral philosophy."
James Schiffer, SUNY New Paltz

"The fruit of a half-century of teaching and thinking with Shakespeare, David Bevington's well-judged and genuinely informative account of Shakespeare's thought demonstrates his trademark circumspection and thoroughgoing sensitivity to the complexity and variety of the plays' questions. Useful no matter what degree your acquaintance with the Bard."
Claire McEachern, University of California, Los Angeles

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