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Palgrave Macmillan

Shakespeare's Anti-Politics

Sovereign Power and the Life of the Flesh

ISBN 9781137275004
Publication Date August 2013
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Series Palgrave Shakespeare Studies

Rejecting arguments that Shakespeare is either an absolutist or a partisan of civic republican values, this book argues that Shakespeare is essentially anti-political, dissecting the nature of the nation-state and charting a surprising form of resistance to it. For Shakespeare, the nation-state is essentially and inescapably a vehicle of sovereign power, seizing the bodily lives of its subjects to impose regulated subjectivities, roles and identities, including a collective national identity. Shakespeare does not imagine directly opposing sovereign power; rather, he imagines using sovereign power against itself to engineer new forms of selfhood and relationality that escape the orbit of the nation-state. It is the new experiences of selfhood and relationality that flourish in the shadows of sovereign power that Gil terms 'the life of the flesh,' and he argues that one place where the life of the flesh appears especially prominently is in a non-intimate experience of sexuality.

Daniel Juan Gil is the author of Before Intimacy: Asocial Sexuality in Early Modern England. He has written widely on cultural sociology, sexuality, religion, and the body, and his articles have appeared in prominent journals including ELH, Shakespeare Quarterly, Borrowers and Lenders and Common Knowledge.

1. The Historical Conditions of Possibility of the Life of the Flesh: Absolutism, Civic Republicanism and 'Bare Life' in Julius Caesar
2. The Life of the Condemned: The Autonomous Legal System and the Community of the Flesh in Measure for Measure
3. Unsettling the Civic Republican Order: The Face of Sovereign Power and the Fate of the Citizen in Othello
4. Life Outside the Law: Torture and the Flesh in King Lear
Epilogue: The Afterlife of the Life of the Flesh


"Gil argues that Shakespeare supports neither monarchical nor civic republican values, as both depend on the sovereign power of the state to control the bodies of subjects. . . Gil's introduction is especially insightful in relating his theory to the present. Summing up: Recommended." — CHOICE
"The strength of the book lies in the clarity of Gil's basic thesis and the consistency with which it is applied." — Julia Reinhard Lupton, Renaissance Quarterly "...ambitious, incisive, and sophisticated. It is excellent... Shakespeare's Anti-Politics will be of tremendous interest to a range of scholars interested in Shakespeare's relationship to politics, the body, and performance." — James Kuzner, Shakespeare Quarterly
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