The Philosophy of Shakespeare

Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds

Constant Love in ‘The Winter’s Tale’

Introduction As is his habit, Shakespeare obliquely introduces his overall theme in the opening scene of The Winter’s Tale. Archidamus admits that were Leontes to return Polixenes’ visit to Syria, as is expected, the relative poverty of the hospitality that Bohemia would be able to offer him could be “justified in [their] loves” (1.1.1-16).[i] Camillo underlines the…

Romeo and Juliet and the Courage of Love

It is of course highly contentious in our times to claim, as the essays on this website do, that Shakespeare propounds a systematic and convincing philosophy of attachment, based on his intuition that intimate, lasting relationships are the ultimate good. The very idea that there is a summum bonum which fulfils our deepest yearnings is likely to…

Twelfth Night and the Justice of Love

By setting the play at the end of the festive season Shakespeare reminds us that all “pleasure will be paid, one time or another” (2.4.70-71). The financial transactions which play such an unusually pervasive role in Twelfth Night direct the reader’s attention towards the central question which the play raises; namely, how can one earn what is…

Fulfilment in As You Like It

Introduction Since Bloom and Jaffa’s seminal work most political philosophers who have engaged with Shakespeare have placed him firmly in the classical tradition.[1] Few have directly challenged this view, but occasionally it has been acknowledged that there are elements in his thinking which are impossible to reconcile with classical philosophy. David Lowenthal notes of Prospero that…

Hamlet: The Limits of Constancy

Introduction If, as I have maintained elsewhere, Shakespeare takes friendship as his summum bonum, then fickleness, bereavement and the various responses to loss become important subjects for philosophical consideration.[i] I will argue that Shakespeare presents a structured exploration of the limits of constancy in Hamlet, in which even minor details may be highly significant. Thus it is the…

Moderation in A Midsummer Night's Dream

In the great tradition of English literature love, by which I mean lasting, intimate attachment, tends to be presented as the highest good: one thinks of Austen, Conrad, and Dickens, not to mention Saul Bellow. This view differs both from the Platonic view that friendship is merely the means by which philosophy is pursued and…

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