Table of Contents for British Literature

Table of Contents for Shakespeare



Shakespeare wrote a series of history plays loosely based on the English civil war known as the war of the roses. The Shakespeare Index contains links to the conflict. A good edition of The Prince is edited by Christian Gauss (Mentor Books). Click here for an on-line text , and examine The Prince, noting especially:

Now did Shakespeare embody these ideas?:

  1. Does the word MACHIAVELLI or a form of the world appear anywhere in Shakespeare?
  2. How would you find out?
  3. Shakespeare's Richard III and Othello offers insights into the kind of amoral, politically ambitious king that people believed Machiavelli "created".

This is the opening soliloquy by Richard:

See the extended discussion of Richard III on the Shakespeare Index. What would Machiavelli say?

Perhaps the best "Machiavellian" villain in Shakespeare is Iago from Othello. His reliance on the force of his own will is seen in this selection when he attempts to convince Roderigo, a man he is robbing blind to remain with him. Roderigo is at the moment discouraged and says...

Rod. What should I do? I confess it is my shame to be so fond; but it is not in my virtue to amend it.

Iago. Virtue! a fig! 't is in ourselves that we are thus or thus. Our bodies are our gardens, to the which our wills are gardeners; so that if we will plant nettles or sow lettuce, set hyssop and weed up thyme, supply it with one gender of herbs or distract it with many, either to have it sterile with idleness or manured with industry, why, the power and corrigible authority of this lies in our wills. If the balance of our lives had not one scale of reason to poise another of sensuality, the blood and baseness of our natures would conduct us to most preposterous conclusions; but we have reason to cool our raging motions, our carnal stings, our unbitted lusts, whereof I take this that you call love to be a sect or scion.

Again, what would Machiavelli say?

There are other characters in Shakespeare that might have Machiavellian affinities. Check:

  1. Warwick from the Henry VI plays
  2. Bolingbroke from The Henry IV plays
  3. Cassius from Julius Caesar
  4. Claudius from Hamlet
  5. Macbeth
  6. Edmund from Lear

Find appropriate passages....

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