Shakespeare and Politics: What a Sixteenth-Century Playwright Can Tell Us about Twenty-First-Century Politics

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Book Info

  • Length: 212 pages
  • Trim size: 6" x 9"

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  • ISBN: 978-1-61205-159-8
  • Publish date: March 2014
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  • ISBN: 978-1-61205-158-1
  • Publish date: September 2013
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  • ISBN: 978-1-61205-418-6
  • Publish date: September 2013
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William Shakespeare, more than any other author, was able to capture the essence of human nature in all its manifestations. His political plays offer enduring insights into our humanity, our vanity, our noble and baser drives, what makes us great, and what makes us loathsome. He tells us about ourselves and about our world. This volume gleans valuable lessons from the writings of William Shakespeare and applies them to contemporary politics. Original chapters covering over a dozen different plays take up perennial political themes including power and leadership, corruption and virtue, war and peace, evil and liberty, persuasion and polarization, and empire and global overreach.

Features of the text:

  • Applies Shakespeare’s plays to the contemporary political world
  • Draws connections between key Shakespeare plays and our political situation
  • Builds on Shakespeare’s concept of human nature applied to politics
  • Uses classic plays to inform our current political troubles
  • Deals with the enduring questions relating to power and politics

Author Info

Bruce E. Altschuler, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at SUNY Oswego, is a recipient of the President's Award for Research/Creative or Scholarly Activity. His publications include Running in Place: A Campaign Journal (Wadsworth Publishing, 1999) and Acting Presidents: 100 Years of Plays about the Presidency (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

Michael A. Genovese is Director of the Institute for Leadership Studies and holds the Loyola Chair of Leadership as Professor of Political Science at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He received his PhD in political science from the University of Southern California and has authored over 30 books and edits a series on the presidency. Genovese has won numerous awards for outstanding teaching and scholarship.


“Anyone interested in Shakespeare’s views on empire, corruption, murder, greed, rulership, and war will find these close readings a delight. Anyone teaching a seminar on great books, a course on presidential power and leadership, or lecturing on political theory, would find students enriched by being exposed to the theoretical prisms and deep insights of this extraordinary volume.”
Richard M. Pious, Columbia University

“Bruce Altschuler and Michael Genovese have assembled a compelling collection of essays that apply Shakespeare’s sixteenth-century excursions in human motivation to the contemporary political landscape. The experts in this volume interrogate an array of political topics through the Bard’s best known and less known plays. This rich blend of theater and politics also illuminates the complex politics of Shakespeare’s work and will be of interest to students and scholars in both fields.”
Caroline Heldman, Occidental College

“Altschuler, Genovese, and their collaborators demonstrate conclusively that an Elizabethan-era English bard can cast light on contemporary politics in general and those of America in particular. This excellent volume should be required reading not only for all students of politics but also for practicing politicians because its exploration of power, ambition, and tyranny offers a salutary warning that men are not angels and the res publica requires a vigilant, engaged, and rational citizenry.”
Iwan Morgan, University College London

“This well-written, beautifully crafted volume brings together smart and scholarly examinations of the Bard’s plays and power plays. Shakespeare and Politics is an engaging book that will inspire literature aficionados and political junkies alike.”
Alison Dagnes, Shippensburg University


Introduction Bruce E. Altschuler and Michael A. Genovese
Chapter 1 On Shakespeare’s Commanders and Kings: Leadership, Politics, and Hubris
Michael A. Genovese and Thomas E. Cronin
Chapter 2 Macbeth and Political Corruption
Bruce E. Altschuler
Chapter 3 A Dionysian Hamlet
Sarah A. Shea
Chapter 4 Antony and Cleopatra: Empire, Globalization, and the Clash of Civilizations
Paul A. Cantor
Chapter 5 Decisions, Decisions, Decisions: Tyrannicide in Julius Caesar
Philip Abbott
Chapter 6 Why Iago Is Evil: Othello and the American Desire to Understand Corruption
Coyle Neal
Chapter 7 Richard III, Tyranny, and the Modern Financial Elite
Marlene K. Sokolon
Chapter 8 Cymbeline and the Origins of Modern Liberty
David Ramsey
Chapter 9 Shakespeare’s Henry V and Responsibility for War
John M. Parrish
Chapter 10 Troilus and Cressida: The Value of Reputations and the Corruption of Society
Lilly J. Goren
Chapter 11 Deception and Persuasion in Measure for Measure
Carol McNamara
Chapter 12 Absurdity and Amateur Hour in the American Political Forest: A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Nightmare of Polarization
Kevan M. Yeneral

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