From Lear to Leviathan: On States of Nature and Social Contracts in Shakespeare's Politics

20 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2011

Date Written: 2011

Abstract

Philosophers have been more ready to incorporate insights from the dramas of William Shakespeare than political theorists, who have focused more of their energies on ancient Greek tragedy. I argue that Shakespeare’s plays are a valuable and necessary resource for a political theory open to imaginative literature, by focusing specifically on King Lear and reading it against Hobbes’s Leviathan. I argue that Shakespeare tragically depicts the same process – the recreation of sovereignty out of a state of nature and emergent social contract – that Hobbes argues for normatively. Shakespeare’s play shows what is required of us psychologically and even emotionally in carrying out the Hobbesian process of disassembling hierarchical feudalism and constructing a modern political rationalism. will be provided by author.

Keywords: Shakespeare; Hobbes; social contract

Suggested Citation

Schulman, Alex, From Lear to Leviathan: On States of Nature and Social Contracts in Shakespeare's Politics (2011). APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1900299

Alex Schulman (Contact Author)

Duke University ( email )

100 Fuqua Drive
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

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