World-renowned Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt explores the playwright's insight into bad (and often mad) rulers. As an aging, tenacious Elizabeth I clung to power, a talented playwright probed the social causes, the psychological roots, and the twisted consequences of tyranny. In exploring the psyche (and psychoses) of the likes of Richard III, Macbeth, Lear, Coriolanus, and the societies they rule over, Stephen Greenblatt illuminates the ways in which William Shakespeare delved into the lust for absolute power and the catastrophic consequences of its execution. Cherished institutions seem fragile, political classes are in disarray, economic misery fuels populist anger, people knowingly accept being lied to, partisan rancor dominates, spectacular indecency rules-these aspects of a society in crisis fascinated Shakespeare and shaped some of his most memorable plays. With uncanny insight, he shone a spotlight on the infantile psychology and unquenchable narcissistic appetites of demagogues-and the cynicism and opportunism of the various enablers and hangers-on who surround them-and imagined how they might be stopped. As Greenblatt shows, Shakespeare's work, in this as in so many other ways, remains vitally relevant today.
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by Stephen Greenblatt
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"Stephen Greenblatt is not only a Shakespeare scholar who teaches at Harvard but also a key figure among literary theorists who view fiction in its historical context. But when narrator Edoardo Ballerini opens this audiobook by asking, "How is it possible for a whole country to fall into the hands of a tyrant?", it's clear the subject is not Elizabethan England. Greenblatt's analysis of how figures such as Macbeth, Richard III, and King Lear rose to power is a not-so-thinly veiled reflection on the 45th president and his enablers. Ballerini is wonderful to listen to as he deftly handles excerpts from the plays with just the right shift in tone and no attempt to sound like a stage actor. He also subtly delivers the act, scene, and line numbers that follow each passage, though these are obtrusive and should have been left out by the editors. D.B. © AudioFile 2018, Portland, Maine"
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