In Worldly Shakespeare Richard Wilson proposes that the universalism proclaimed in the name of Shakespeare's playhouse was tempered by his own worldliness, the performative idea that runs through his plays, that if ‘All the world’s a stage’, then ‘all the men and women in it’ are ‘merely players’. Situating this playacting in the context of current concerns about the difference between globalization and mondialisation, the book considers how this drama offers itself as a model for a planet governed not according to universal toleration, but the right to offend: ‘But with good will’. For when he asks us to think we ‘have but slumbered’ throughout his offensive plays, Wilson suggests, Shakespeare is presenting a drama without catharsis, which anticipates post-structuralist thinkers like Jacques Rancière and Slavoj Žižek, who insist the essence of democracy is dissent, and ‘the presence of two worlds in one’. Living out his scenario of the guest who destroys the host, by welcoming the religious terrorist, paranoid queen, veiled woman, papist diehard, or puritan fundamentalist into his play-world, Worldly Shakespeare concludes, the dramatist instead provides a pretext for our globalized communities in a time of Facebook and fatwa, as we also come to depend on the right to offend ‘with our good will’. ; A comprehensive rereading of Shakespeare’s plays in light of current debates about free speech and toleration.
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This book is an outstanding piece of Shakespearean scholarship, mastering a staggering amount of dramatic and critical material combined with bold intellectual and speculative powers. Highly relevant to contemporary questions, such as globalization, the ethics of toleration and the philosophy of multicultural societies, Worldly Shakespeare lets the old plays speak anew to present-day readers and thinkers.
- Tobias Döring
Richard Wilson is Sir Peter Hall Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Kingston University, London, and the author of Free Will: Art and power on Shakespeare’s stage; Shakespeare in French Theory: King of Shadows; Secret Shakespeare: Essays on theatre, religion and resistance; and Will Power: Studies in Shakespearean authority. He was described by the critic A.D, Nuttall as ‘perhaps the most brilliant of the Shakespearean historicists’.