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Shakespeare and The Prince

ENGL 430.940
instructor(s):
TR 5:30-8:40

The Prince was written by Niccolo Machiavelli in 1513 ostensibly to provide practical political advice to the Medici; however, when it became public, the book deeply dismayed sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European readers, who found its arguments frankly immoral. English dramatists--Shakespeare among them--routinely capitalized on Machiavelli's shock value by populating their works with a variety of demonic "stage Machiavels." Nonetheless, The Prince's message of the importance of embracing strategic wisdom when operating in the world of power politics did not entirely escape its audience. This seminar explores the complex reaction to Machiavelli's The Prince represented in Shakespeare's plays. After reading The Prince, we will discuss classic "stage Machiavels" such as Aaron, Iago, Edmund and Richard III. And we will also conduct Machiavellian analyses of a variety of Shakespeare's political dramas, applying standards based on political virtu to characters from the first and second Henriad, Julius Caesar, and Macbeth.