Shakespeare's Tragic Skepticism
Yale University Press, 2002 M01 1 - 283 pages
Readers of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies have long noted the absence of readily explainable motivations for some of Shakespeare's greatest characters: why does Hamlet delay his revenge for so long? Why does King Lear choose to renounce his power? Why is Othello so vulnerable to Iago's malice? But while many critics have chosen to overlook these omissions or explain them away, Millicent Bell demonstrates that they are essential elements of Shakespeare's philosophy of doubt. Examining the major tragedies, Millicent Bell reveals the persistent strain of philosophical skepticism. Like his contemporary, Montaigne, Shakespeare repeatedly calls attention to the essential unknowability of our world.
In a period of social, political, and religious upheaval, uncertainty hovered over matters great and small--the succession of the crown, the death of loved ones from plague, the failure of a harvest. Tumultuous social conditions raised ultimate questions for Shakespeare, Bell argues, and ultimately provoked in him a skepticism which casts shadows of existential doubt over his greatest masterpieces.
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Although chiefly a specialist in American literature who has authored books on J.P. Marquand and Henry James and has edited the Library of America edition of Nathaniel Hawthorne's novels, Bell ... Read full review
action actor already Antony appears asks audience become beginning believe body bring Brutus Caesar called Cassio cause character Cleopatra comes continues course critics daughters death deed denies Desdemona doubt Duncan earlier effect evidence expect expressed fact faith false father feel finally followed force ghost give Hamlet hand hear Holinshed human Iago idea identity imagination Kent killed kind King Lear Lady lago language later Lear's lives look lost Macbeth madness meaning merely mind Montaigne motive murder nature never noted observed offers once Othello perhaps play plot present reason reference relation remark reminds represented revenge role royal says scene seems seen sense Shake Shakespeare skepticism social soliloquy sometimes speaks stage story suggested tells theater things thou thought tion tragedy true truth universal witchcraft witches witnesses
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