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Vol. 15 (2012): Shakespeare

(Published February, 2012 ISSN 1209-0689)


Ken Jacobsen (Grenfell Campus - Memorial University), John Baxter (Dalhousie University), Todd Hennessey (Grenfell Campus - Memorial University)

Preface (click to download)

John Baxter, George Whalley and a Way of Reading Shakespeare.

When Whalley moves beyond his normal range of expertise, as in the essay “Jane Austen: Poet,” it is clear that he could have done so more frequently—and with particular relevance to the study of Shakespeare. Austen, he argues, is a poet in two important senses: in her “craftsmanship in language” and in her “conduct of the action.” How he would have viewed the relation of Shakespeare’s action and his language may be deduced from his Austen essay, from his translation of Aristotle’s Poetics, and from its spin-off, “The Aristotle-Coleridge Axis.” His striking combination of principles from Aristotle and Coleridge generates a unique approach to Shakespeare.

Jonathan Goossen, "The Disposition of Natures": Aristotle, Comedy, and Shakespeare's Measure for Measure.

The theory of comedy implicit in Aristotle’s Poetics has been developed in fascinating ways by recent scholarship. This essay applies aspects of this work to Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, finding that the emotion of indignation, the plot device of the hoax, and the experience of catharsis are key structural principles in Shakespeare’s extraordinary comedy.

Ken Jacobsen, "What a piece of work is man": Theatrical Anthropology in Hamlet.

This essay argues that Hamlet contains three distinct strands in its exploration of the theme of human nature: Piconian optimism, coalescing around the figure of homo rationalis; a skeptical Montaignean critique of homo rationalis; and homo histrio– man the actor -- who mediates between the two. Hamlet demonstrates the various ways that theatricality, a human invention, has entered into the human world and become a powerful conditioning force within it. The play’s treatment of a theatricalized human condition addresses key issues around which the critique of traditional anthropology coheres: rationality, epistemology, temporality, language, identity, and agency.

Andrew Moore, "Goats and Monkeys!": Shakespeare, Hobbes, and the State of Nature.

The human capacity to oscillate between different ontological states is one of the central preoccupations of King Lear and Othello. In each play Shakespeare dismantles what he considers erroneous accounts of human nature, both traditional and emergent, in order to advance an account of our nature this is premised on human liberty, which the playwright describes as a capacity to act against nature. To demonstrate this capacity King Lear and Othello illustrate how the absence of political restraints allows characters to slip from a civilized state into an environment defined by fear, violent competition, and jealousy, a state much like Thomas Hobbes’ imagined state of nature.

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