Sunday, December 03, 2006

"Shakespeare's Philosophy"

Just released: Shakespeare's Philosophy: Discovering the Meaning Behind the Plays, by Colin McGinn.

From the publisher:
Shakespeare has always been celebrated for the depth of his themes, the vividness of his characters, and the beauty of his poetry. However, the philosophical nature of his opus has often been overlooked.

Focusing on Shakespeare's six most regarded plays—A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, King Lear, and The Tempest—noted philosopher Colin McGinn provides a brilliant analysis of the major philosophical themes embedded in Shakespeare's work, including the possibility of human knowledge and the threat of skepticism; the nature and persistence of the self; the character of causation as it shapes human affairs; the existence and nature of evil; and the power of language to influence and shape the human mind. McGinn contends that Shakespeare was strongly influenced by the philosophy of Montaigne, a convinced skeptic and unflinching psychological inquirer, whose work was being translated into English at the time Shakespeare composed his greatest works. Shakespeare's unique contribution to the exploration of human nature was a profound appreciation of the opacity of other minds and the mysteries of the soul, presenting a view of the self as theatrical in nature, more a matter of artistic creation than a natural given. His major tragedies are patterned along these philosophical concerns.

Interweaving close textual analysis and conceptual exploration, Shakespeare's Philosophy pursues questions of character against a background of their philosophical significance. As McGinn says of Shakespeare, "The Shakespeare that emerges is both profoundly human and bracingly abstract. He is a philosophical dramatist. There is not a sentimental bone in his body. He has the curiosity of a scientist, the judgment of a philosopher, and the soul of a poet."
Click here to read an excerpt from Shakespeare's Philosophy.

Coming soon here on the blog: McGinn subjects The Power of Movies to the "page 69 test."

--Marshal Zeringue