Shakespeare on Politics

Stephen Greenblatt (Author, Harvard University)

Overview | Formats

World-renowned Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt explores the playwright’s insight into catastrophic rulers.

Examining the psyche—and psychoses—of the likes of Richard III, Macbeth, Lear, and Coriolanus, Greenblatt illuminates the ways in which William Shakespeare delved into the lust for absolute power and the disasters visited upon the societies over which these characters rule. Tyrant shows that Shakespeare’s work remains vitally relevant today, not least in its probing of the unquenchable, narcissistic appetites of demagogues and the self-destructive willingness of collaborators who indulge their appetites.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • Forthcoming May 2019
  • ISBN 978-0-393-35697-7
  • 5.5 × 8.3 in / 224 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide including Canada, Singapore and Malaysia, but excluding the British Commonwealth.

Other Formats

  1. Book CoverTyrant: Shakespeare on Politics


Endorsements & Reviews

“Greenblatt is especially fine on the mechanisms of tyranny, its ecology, so to speak, leaving one deeply moved all over again by Shakespeare’s profound and direct understanding of what it is to be human—which includes, alas, being a tyrant.” — Simon Callow, New York Times Book Review

“Rarely have these blood-soaked creatures seemed so recognizably human and so contemporary.” — John Lithgow

“In this brilliant, beautifully organized, exceedingly readable study of Shakespeare’s tyrants and their tyrannies—their dreadful narcissistic follies, their usurpations and their craziness and their cruelties, their arrogant incompetence, their paranoid viciousness, their falsehoods and their flattery hunger—Stephen Greenblatt manages to elucidate obliquely our own desperate (in Shakespeare’s words) ‘general woe.’” — Philip Roth

“Elegant and deftly written.” — Eliot A. Cohen, Washington Post

“Greenblatt shows us not only that Shakespeare’s writings can serve as a brilliant guide to the mess of our current politics but also that he—Greenblatt, that is—is perfectly well able to give us an account of them.” — Los Angeles Review of Books

“Shakespeare lived five centuries ago, yet Greenblatt’s book has the feel of a series of urgent and very contemporary dispatches.” — Christian Science Monitor

“Mr. Greenblatt breaks with the traditional assumption that Shakespeare must have been an uncritical admirer of monarchy. The Shakespeare that this book reveals is not only able to tell a bad king from a good but willing to raise serious doubts about monarchy as a regime.” — Wall Street Journal

“An engaging study of some of the most eloquent despots on stage.” — Guardian

“In Tyrant, Greenblatt demonstrates the enduring relevance of Shakespeare’s outlook as much as providing a commentary.… Shakespeare’s voice rings down the ages, and, as with innumerable other human matters, we would do well to listen to it.” — Independent

“[Tyrant] is valuable less for what it has to say about Shakespeare’s plays than for how it applies the wisdom it has acquired through careful study of these works to the crisis roiling American democracy.” — Los Angeles Times

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    Volume(s): B

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    Volume(s): C