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Summary

World-renowned Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt explores the playwright's insight into bad (and often mad) rulers. 

As an aging, tenacious Elizabeth I clung to power, a talented playwright probed the social causes, the psychological roots, and the twisted consequences of tyranny. In exploring the psyche (and psychoses) of the likes of Richard III, Macbeth, Lear, Coriolanus, and the societies they rule over, Stephen Greenblatt illuminates the ways in which William Shakespeare delved into the lust for absolute power and the catastrophic consequences of its execution. 

Cherished institutions seem fragile, political classes are in disarray, economic misery fuels populist anger, people knowingly accept being lied to, partisan rancor dominates, spectacular indecency rules - these aspects of a society in crisis fascinated Shakespeare and shaped some of his most memorable plays. With uncanny insight, he shone a spotlight on the infantile psychology and unquenchable narcissistic appetites of demagogues - and the cynicism and opportunism of the various enablers and hangers-on who surround them - and imagined how they might be stopped. As Greenblatt shows, Shakespeare's work, in this as in so many other ways, remains vitally relevant today.

©2018 Stephen Greenblatt (P)2018 Recorded Books

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  • C. Gross
  • 10-05-18

Too Close for Comfort

What an enjoyable listen. As the author reviewed the atrocities and calamities embodied in the Shakespearean tyrants and systems of oppression, I felt somewhat cheered up about our current political mess, and readied myself for it to get worse before it gets better. It just goes to show - the more things change, the more they stay the same. My only real regret is my near-certainty that the people who would most benefit from this wouldn’t dream of reading it or listening to it.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Jaded Buddha
  • 11-06-18

Timely essay on Shakespeare's tyrants

Greenblatt's scholarly elucidation of Shakespeare's tyrants implicitly comment on the spectacle of Trump. Masterful and thoroughly enjoyable.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Marianne
  • 07-06-18

Completely gripping, unstoppable

Stephan Greenblatt digs deep into Shakespeare's history plays and brings them to life and contemporary relevance.
A knowledge to the Henry plays and Richard the 3rd is helpful as also of English History.
Still, tyrants, like happy families, are all fairly alike

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Farmer Don
  • 19-06-18

Incredible

One of the best books I've read or listened to all year. Can't recommend more highly.