Category Archives: Shakespeare (William)

Stories Have Always Opened Up the Future

An anthropologist argues that human beings took over the world because they had the ability to compose fictions. Literature continues to point the way forward for us as a species.

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Obama Is to Trump as Albany Is to Goneril

While Trump calls for torture of terrorists and Ted Cruz calls for carpet bombing them, President Obama calls for America to take the high moral road. He sounds like Albany arguing with Goneril in “King Lear.”

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If Trump Tweeted Classic Lit Reviews…

Donald Trump has a very distinctive twitter style., one that would be great for classic book reviews. A BuzzFeed writer imagines how he might have reviewed “Hamlet,” “Tristram Shandy,” “Ulysses,” and other classics.

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Will Plots vs. Trump Succeed?

“Beware the Ides of March,” the soothsayer tells Julius Caesar. On the Ides of March 2016, Marco Rubio received the unkindest cut from his home state of Florida. But if for perhaps a more apt application of the play, one should look at how members of the GOP establishment are hoping to stab Donald Trump at the July convention.

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Drama Shows Us a Way Out of Violence

New School philosophy professor Simon Critchley argues that theatre and the arts in general are vital in helping societies understand and moderate endemic violence. Aeschylus’s “Oresteia” and Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” are particularly important.

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Sans Scalia, a Happy Midsummer Ending?

The late Antonin Scalia claimed to be a strict textualist and would have found some excuse to support Texas’s law designed to close down abortion centers. There’s a Scalia-type character in “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Fortunately, by the end of the play he has been overruled.

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Christie as Prufrock & Other Lit Allusions

Political pundits have been turning to literature to talk about the GOP primaries. This past week saw citations of Shakespeare, T. S. Eliot, Lewis Carroll, and Richard Adams (“Watership Down”).

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Prospero and the Presidential Primaries

Think of Shakespeare’s “Tempest” as an allegory for the current state of American politics, especially the presidential primaries. It contains visionaries and cynics, orchestrators and disrupters. If Prospero is the island “establishment,” then he enjoys some success but it is qualified.

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Rubio vs. Bush: The Unkindest Cut

The struggle between Jeb Bush and his former protegé Marco Rubio has been described as Shakespearean. The Shakespeare duos that come to mind are Caesar-Brutus, Duncan-Macbeth, and Henry IV-Hal.

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Conservative Extremists as King Lear

In another significant post that appeared this past year, I compared GOP extremists to King Lear–more interested in self-indulgent behavior than in responsible governance. The result is a divided country at war with itself.

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Donne’s Lovers, Spooky at a Distance

Tuesday Adam Gopnik makes some nice literary allusions in a recent New Yorker essay-review of George Musser’s Spooky at a Distance, which is about the history of quantum entanglement theory. Entanglement, also known as non-locality and described by Einstein as “spooky at a distance,” claims that two particles of a single wave function can influence each other, even […]

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A Cosmic Theory of Literature

My attempt at an overarching theory of literature and its place in human history and human progress.

Also posted in Austen (Jane), Rand (Ayn), Sidney (Sir Philip), Terence | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Johnson: The Bard Instructs by Delighting

Although today we are sometimes suspicious when literature seeks to instruct us, Samuel Johnson considered this to be literature’s primary aim. He held up Shakespeare as proof.

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Jeb! Agonistes: An Unsettling Parallel

Does Jeb Bush resemble at the moment Samson Agonistes? His rivalry with Marco Rubio also resembles any number of Shakespeare tragedies. There’s an Oedipus parallel as well.

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The Bard Does Halloween

In honor of Halloween, check out what Shakespeare had to say about ghosts. When his graves yawn and yield up their dead, they produce apparitions that are genuinely frightening.

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Sacks & the Bard’s Midsummer Madness

The late Oliver Sacks’s observations on the mind sometimes sound a lot like Shakespeare in “Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “The Tempest.”

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All the Devils of Hell Unleashed by Katrina

The panic of New Orleans 9th Ward residents ten years ago is reminiscent of the passengers on board the ship in Shakespeare’s “Tempest”: “Hell is empty and all the devils are here!”

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The Bard Endorsed Same Sex Marriage

In “Twelfth Night,” 400 years before Obergefell v. Hodges, Shakespeare dreamed of same sex marriage. He would have been celebrating Friday after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same sex marriage.

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Puck’s Summer Magic

“Midsummer Night’s Dream” dips into ancient British legends about the mystical aspects of midsummer.

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10 Memorable Poetic Pick-Up Lines

10 memorable pick-up lines from poetic greats. Try them at a bar near you.

Also posted in Austen (Jane), Behn (Aphra), Donne (John), Herrick (Robert), Marvell (Andrew), Montagu (Lady Mary Wortley), Rostand (Edmond de), Wilmot (John) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hamlet Instructs the Class of 2015

Our commencement ceremonies included a reading of Hamlet’s advice to the players.

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The Real Victims of Deflategate

Two characters from “Hamlet” have been invoked in Tom Brady’s deflategate scandal. Can you guess which ones?

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Toppling Shakespeare from His Pedestal

“Bardolatry,” the worship of William Shakespeare, can get in the way of truly appreciating him.

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Lear: Finding Love in Adversity

Both “Doctor Faustus” and “King Lear” teach us the silver lining in adversity, “Faustus” in a negative way, “Lear” in a positive.

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Political Consultants Should Read Lit

Which literary works would you recommend to a political consultant to stay in touch with his or her soul and avoid becoming lost in the dark side? How about Hawthorne, Melville, Shakespeare, Pinter, and Terrence McNally?

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Robert Durst’s Iago-Like Soliloquy

How to interpret suspected murderer Robert Durst’s enigmatic words on “The Jinx”? Shakespeare’s villains point the way.

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Violating Political Norms Exacts a Price

Those who break political norms must keep in mind the lessons of Bolingbroke’s rebellion in Richard II.

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Lear’s Lesson: Dividing Leads to War

The politics in “King Lear” are currently being played out in attempts to sabotage negotiations with Iran.

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Gaga Feminism & 12th Night

“Gaga feminism” is a playful challenge to conventional social definitions. Shakespeare can be seen as writing “Twelfth Night” in the spirit of gaga feminism.

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Old Lit as a Transformational Experience

The power of a “King Lear” passage is a refutation of Scott Walker’s attempt to redirect higher education to “work force needs.”

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Twelfth Night and the End of Carnival

Twelfth Night in New Orleans, as in Shakespeare’s play, seems to be about carnival time winding down.

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