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The Exception: Force of Argument in Terry Eagleton’s William Shakespeare

May 12, 2012

The latest issue of Shakespeare contains an article by Prof Richard Wilson (Cardiff University).

An English text of Carl Schmitt’s Hamlet or Hecuba makes it vital to question the turn from French theory to Germany philosophy in Shakespeare studies, given a Left flirtation with Schmitt’s Political Theology begun by Walter Benjamin. The Marxist critic’s fascination with fascism was decried by Terry Eagleton as a theoretical error. So it is ironic that Eagleton’s William Shakespeare was driven by the same Schmittian idea that “sovereign is he who decides the exception” in language or law. Eagleton backtracked on its cult of violence after 9/11. But 25 years on, his introduction to the plays shows the danger of using Shakespeare to decide necessary violence, not least in its own exceptional force of argument. This article thus considers Eagleton’s book to be an early example of the coincidence of opposites that currently attracts Shakespeareans to dubious existentialist notions of decision and risk.

Those with a university login can access the article here.

Find out about private subscription to the journal here.

Swords in Shakespeare at the British Museum

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