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Shakespeare and Moral Agency

edited by Michael D. Bristol

DOI: 10.5040/9781472555175

ISBN: 9781441174888

Shakespeare and Moral Agency presents a collection of new essays by literary scholars and philosophers considering character and action in Shakespeare's plays as heuristic models for the exploration of some salient problems in the field of moral inquiry. Together they offer a unified presentation of an emerging orientation in Shakespeare studies, drawing on recent work in ethics, philosophy of mind, and analytic aesthetics to construct a powerful framework for the critical analysis of Shakespeare's works.

Contributors suggest new possibilities for the interpretation of Shakespearean drama by engaging with the rich body of contemporary work in the field of moral philosophy, offering significant insights for literary criticism, for pedagogy, and also for theatrical performance.

""Character criticism" fell out of fashion during the last two decades of the twentieth century, and with it, to some extent, questions of individual moral agency. The distinguished contributors to this new anthology return such questions to center stage, and do so through fresh vocabularies of gesture, embodied movement, political theory, behavioral and cognitive science, ethics and moral philosophy. Speaking directly to issues of meaning in Shakespeare's plays, the essays explore how narratives of self-reflection and self-preservation often clash when confronted with the requirements of moral agency, and reveal how unpredictable such stories are when performed on the respective stages of history and society. Theoretically fluent in the debates of the last twenty years, the authors in the volume never confuse Shakespearean characters with "real people." They do, however, support editor Michael Bristol's contention that "you have to be able to take these creations seriously." The essays in this book provide a strong case for removing the scare-quotes from character criticism as we confront the moral dilemmas-some new and many longstanding-- of the twenty-first century." - Linda Charnes, Professor of English and West European Studies, Indiana University, Bloomington, USA

Michael Bristol... offers in this useful collection of 13 essays some compelling arguments why 'openness to an emotional engagement with' Shakespeare's dramatic incarnations pays dividends that far outweigh any potential confusions of fiction with reality.