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Shakespeare and Renaissance Ethics


Patrick Gray

John D. Cox


Written by a distinguished international team of contributors, this volume explores Shakespeare’s vivid depictions of moral deliberation and individual choice in light of Renaissance debates about ethics. Examining the intellectual context of Shakespeare’s plays, the essays illuminate Shakespeare’s engagement with the most pressing moral questions of his time, considering the competing claims of politics, Christian ethics, and classical moral philosophy, as well as new perspectives on controversial topics such as conscience, prayer, revenge, and suicide. Looking at Shakespeare’s responses to emerging schools of thought such as Calvinism and Epicureanism, and assessing comparisons between Shakespeare and his French contemporary Montaigne, the collection addresses questions such as: when does laughter become cruel? How does style reflect moral perspective? Does shame lead to self-awareness? This book is will be of great interest to scholars and students of Shakespeare studies, Renaissance studies, and the history of ethics.


Gray, P., & Cox, J. D. (Eds.). (2014). Shakespeare and Renaissance Ethics. Cambridge University Press.

Book Type Edited Book
Online Publication Date Jul 24, 2014
Publication Date 2014-07
Deposit Date Mar 5, 2014
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Additional Information Introduction: rethinking Shakespeare and ethics Patrick Gray and John D. Cox PART I:  SHAKESPEARE AND CLASSICAL ETHICS 1. Fame, eternity, and Shakespeare’s Romans Gordon Braden 2. Aristotelian shame and Christian mortification in Love’s Labour’s Lost Jane Kingsley-Smith 3. Shakespeare and the ethics of laughter Indira Ghose 4. Shakespeare’s Virgil: empathy and The Tempest Leah Whittington PART II : SHAKESPEARE AND CHRISTIAN ETHICS 5. Shakespeare’s prayers John D. Cox 6. The morality of milk: Shakespeare and the ethics of nursing Beatrice Groves 7. Hamlet the rough-hewer: moral agency and the consolations of Reformation thought Russell M. Hillier 8. “Wrying but a little”? Marriage, punishment, and forgiveness in Cymbeline Robert S. Miola PART III : SHAKESPEARE AND THE ETHICAL THINKING OF MONTAIGNE 9. “HIDE THY SELFE”: Montaigne, Hamlet, and Epicurean ethics Patrick Gray 10. Conscience and the god-surrogate in Montaigne and Measure for Measure William M. Hamlin 11. Shakespeare, Montaigne, and classical reason Peter Holbrook 12. Madness, proverbial wisdom, and philosophy in King Lear Peter Mack GORDON BRADEN is Linden Kent Memorial Professor of English at the University of Virginia; author of Renaissance Tragedy and the Senecan Tradition (1985), The Idea of the Renaissance (with William Kerrigan, 1989), and Petrarchan Love and the Continental Renaissance (1999); and co-editor of The Oxford History of Literary Translation in English, vol. 2: 1550–1660 (2010). JOHN D. COX is the DuMez Professor of English at Hope College. He is the author most recently of Seeming Knowledge: Shakespeare and Skeptical Faith (2007) and editor of the third Arden 3 Henry VI (2001) and the Broadview Press/Internet Shakespeare Edition of Julius Caesar (2012). INDIRA GHOSE is Professor of English Literature at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. Her book Shakespeare and Laughter: A Cultural History appeared in 2008. PATRICK GRAY is Lecturer in Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature at Durham University. His research interests include shame, guilt, the ethics of recognition (Anerkennung), and the reception of the classics in the Renaissance. BEATRICE GROVES is the Research Lecturer in Renaissance English at Trinity College, Oxford. She has published widely on Shakespeare and early modern drama, including the monograph Texts and Traditions: Religion in Shakespeare, 1591–1604 (2007). WILLIAM M. HAMLIN teaches English at Washington State University. A past recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the J. S. Guggenheim Foundation, he is the author of Tragedy and Scepticism in Shakespeare’s England (2005) and Montaigne’s English Journey: Reading the Essays in Shakespeare’s Day (2013). RUSSELL M. HILLIER, educated in Classics and English at Oxford and Cambridge, is the author of Milton’s Messiah: The Son of God in the Works of John Milton (2011) and articles on writers as diverse as Milton, Coleridge, Dostoevsky, and Cormac McCarthy. He is at work on a second manuscript on the literary representation of encounter in William Shakespeare, George Herbert, and John Milton. He is currently Associate Professor of English at Providence College, Rhode Island. PETER HOLBROOK is Professor of English Renaissance Literature at the University of Queensland, Australia. His most recent book is Shakespeare’s Individualism (Cambridge, 2010). JANE KINGSLEY-SMITH is a Reader at Roehampton University, London. She is the author of two monographs: Shakespeare’s 2003 Drama of Exile () and Cupid in Early Modern Literature and Culture (Cambridge, 2010), and is currently editing Love’s Labour’s Lost for the new Norton Shakespeare. PETER MACK is Director of the Warburg Institute, University of London, and Professor of English, University of Warwick. His books include Renaissance Argument (1993), Elizabethan Rhetoric (2002), Reading and Rhetoric in Montaigne and Shakespeare (2010), and A History of Renaissance Rhetoric 1380–1620 (2011). ROBERT S. MIOLA is the Gerard Manley Hopkins Professor of English and a Lecturer in Classics at Loyola University in Maryland. He has published on Shakespeare’s classical background and edited a number of plays, most recently Hamlet and Macbeth (Norton) and Jonson’s The Case Is Altered (Cambridge, forthcoming), as well as an anthology of poetry and prose, Early Modern Catholicism (2007). LEAH WHITTINGTON is Assistant Professor of English at Harvard University. She is the author of articles on Milton, Virgil, and Petrarch, and is Associate Editor of the I Tatti Renaissance Library.