Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics (Paperback)
"Brilliant, beautifully organized, exceedingly readable." —Philip Roth
World-renowned Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt explores the playwright’s insight into bad (and often mad) rulers.
Examining the psyche—and psychoses—of the likes of Richard III, Macbeth, Lear, and Coriolanus, Greenblatt illuminates the ways in which William Shakespeare delved into the lust for absolute power and the disasters visited upon the societies over which these characters rule. Tyrant shows that Shakespeare’s work remains vitally relevant today, not least in its probing of the unquenchable, narcissistic appetites of demagogues and the self-destructive willingness of collaborators who indulge their appetites.
— Simon Callow - New York Times Book Review
Rarely have these blood-soaked creatures seemed so recognizably human and so contemporary.
— John Lithgow
Elegant and deftly written.
— Eliot A. Cohen - Washington Post
Greenblatt shows us not only that Shakespeare’s writings can serve as a brilliant guide to the mess of our current politics but also that he—Greenblatt, that is—is perfectly well able to give us an account of them.
— Los Angeles Review of Books
Shakespeare lived five centuries ago, yet Greenblatt’s book has the feel of a series of urgent and very contemporary dispatches.
— Christian Science Monitor
Mr. Greenblatt breaks with the traditional assumption that Shakespeare must have been an uncritical admirer of monarchy. The Shakespeare that this book reveals is not only able to tell a bad king from a good but willing to raise serious doubts about monarchy as a regime.
— Wall Street Journal
An engaging study of some of the most eloquent despots on stage.
In Tyrant, Greenblatt demonstrates the enduring relevance of Shakespeare’s outlook as much as providing a commentary…Shakespeare’s voice rings down the ages, and, as with innumerable other human matters, we would do well to listen to it.
[Tyrant] is valuable less for what it has to say about Shakespeare’s plays than for how it applies the wisdom it has acquired through careful study of these works to the crisis roiling American democracy.
— Los Angeles Times
Shakespeare’s fascination with the tyrannical impulse, in domestic as well as political settings, is undeniable and is acutely observed by Greenblatt. The overlap between the private and public spheres is always catastrophic, as is the tyrant’s blind, psychotic fury at resistance when pure obedience is expected, an emotion the plays release and explore compulsively.
— Literary Review (UK)