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Tragic Conditions in Shakespeare Disinheriting the Globe by Paul A. Kottman

Tragic Conditions in Shakespeare Disinheriting the Globe

Part of the Rethinking Theory Series


Tragic Conditions in Shakespeare Disinheriting the Globe by Paul A. Kottman

Paul A. Kottman offers a new and compelling understanding of tragedy as seen in four of Shakespeare's mature plays-As You Like It, Hamlet, King Lear, and The Tempest. The author pushes beyond traditional ways of thinking about tragedy, framing his readings with simple questions that have been missing from scholarship of the past generation: Are we still moved by Shakespeare, and why? Kottman throws into question the inheritability of human relationships by showing how the bonds upon which we depend for meaning and worth can be dissolved. According to Kottman, the lives of Shakespeare's protagonists are conditioned by social bonds-kinship ties, civic relations, economic dependencies, political allegiances-that unravel irreparably. This breakdown means they can neither inherit nor bequeath a livable or desirable form of sociality. Orlando and Rosalind inherit nothing but growth itself before becoming refugees in the Forest of Arden; Hamlet is disinherited not only by Claudius's election but by the sheer vacuity of the activities that remain open to him; Lear's disinheritance of Cordelia bequeaths a series of events that finally leave the social sphere itself forsaken of heirs and forbearers alike. Firmly rooted in the philosophical tradition of reading Shakespeare, this bold work is the first sustained interpretation of Shakespearean tragedy since Stanley Cavell's work on skepticism and A. C. Bradley's century-old Shakespearean Tragedy.


Professor Kottman has written a thoughtful and thought-provoking book. It addresses very major issues, in what is for the most part quite an original way, and I found much of what I read illuminating. -- Joost Daalder * Review of English Studies * Calm, methodical, yet urgent humanist philosophy. -- Emma Smith * Comparative Drama * Reading this book is like following an intensely intellectual yet personal lecture... Essential. * Choice * Tragic Conditions in Shakespeare provides an intriguing series of questions and considerations that makes fascinating reading. -- Patricia Lennox * Sixteenth Century Journal *

About the Author

Paul A. Kottman is an assistant professor of comparative literature at the New School, editor of Philosophers on Shakespeare, and author of A Politics of the Scene.

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Book Info

Publication date

22nd September 2009


Paul A. Kottman

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Johns Hopkins University Press


208 pages


Shakespeare studies & criticism



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