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Palgrave Macmillan

Shakespeare's Political Wisdom

ISBN 9781137320858
Publication Date April 2013
Formats Hardcover Paperback Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Series Recovering Political Philosophy

Winner of 2014 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Titles award, Shakespeare's Political Wisdom offers careful interpretations of five Shakespearean plays—Julius Caesar, Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice, King Lear, and The Tempest—with a view to the enduring guidance those plays can provide to human, political life. The plays have been chosen for their relentless attention to the questions that, for Shakespeare, form the heart and soul of politics: Who should rule, and what is justice? Burns provides an original reading of the plays through the lens of political philosophy rather than Theatre or Renaissance Studies. Shakespeare's wisdom found in these five plays, Burns concludes, provides a deeply relevant critique of our contemporary civic culture.

Timothy W. Burns is Professor and Graduate Program Director of Political Science at Baylor University. He is author of Shakespeare's Political Wisdom (2013), co-author (with Thomas L. Pangle) of Key Texts of Political Philosophy: An Introduction (2014), editor of Brill's Companion To Leo Strauss' Writings on Classical Political Thought (2015), editor of Recovering Reason: Essays in Honor of Thomas L. Pangle (2010), and editor of After History? Francis Fukuyama and his Critics (1994). He is co-editor, with Peter A. Lawler, of The Future of Liberal Education (2014), and co-editor, with Bryan-Paul Frost, of Philosophy, History, and Tyranny: Re-examining the Debate Between Leo Strauss and Alexandre Kojève (2016). He is translator of Marcellinus' "Life of Thucydides," and author of articles on works by Homer, Thucydides, Aristophanes, Plato, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Bacon, Shakespeare, Hobbes, Chesterton, Strauss, Fukuyama, Putnam, and modern liberal republican theory. He is also editor in chief of Interpretation: A Journal of Political Philosophy.

1. Julius Caesar: The Problem of Classical Republicanism
2. Macbeth: Ambition Driven Into Darkness
3. The Merchant of Venice: Roman Virtue in a Christian Commercial Republic
4. King Lear: The Question of Divine Justice
5. The Tempest: A Philosopher-Poet Educating Citizens


"Burns has written an illuminating study displaying an acute and informed intelligence." – John Alvis, Professor of English, The University of Dallas, USA
"In his powerful treatment of five of Shakespeare's greatest works, Tim Burns lays out with a remarkable clarity and elegance the political wisdom central to these particular dramas. In doing so, he shows us how Shakespeare allows us to recover a classical conception of politics from the distortions of a politicized Christianity and the unexamined prejudices imposed on us by modern liberal politics. But Burns does more than just argue that Shakespeare's plays provide an occasion for serious moral and political reflection. His interpretations show how Shakespeare educates us through plays designed to purify our understanding of morality and of political life. Shakespeare's Political Wisdom is indispensable for all those who seek such understanding." - Bernard Dobski, Associate Professor and Chair, Political Science Department, Assumption College, USA
"In the nearly fifty years since Allan Bloom published his groundbreaking Shakespeare's Politics, many scholars have been inspired to unearth what others had suceeded in covering over: the poet's overarching intention to educate his audience, by speech and deed, in the moral and political concerns essential to a life worth living. Timothy Burns's magisterial study of five Shakespearean plays - Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Merchant of Venice, King Lear, and The Tempest - seems to me the finest of the books inspired by Bloom's original inquiry. As its title suggests, Shakespeare's Political Wisdom takes seriously the possibility that Shakespeare was, not merely brilliant or creative or inspired, but wise; and in each essay, with extraordinary clarity and grace, Burns puts before the reader irrefutable evidence of the Bard's depth of soul. An indispensable guide that delights as it instructs." - Robert C. Bartlett, Behrakis Professor of Hellenic Political Studies, Boston College, USA
"Burns has managed to offer a series of political reflections of such profound insight that students of both politics and Shakespeare would be well advised to devote careful attention to his new book." – Wayne Ambler, Associate Professor, University of Colorado, USA
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