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Introduction

Can We Learn from Shakespeare about the Causes and Prevention of Violence?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 November 2021

James Gilligan
Affiliation:
New York University
David A.J. Richards
Affiliation:
NYU Law School
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Summary

Starting with the story of a man, a successful publisher, who like Othello kills his wife and then decides to kill himself, we find that Shakespeare’s plays are the richest source of insight into what motivates violence, toward others and also toward oneself, and what is needed to prevent violence. In contrast to Shakespeare, the mental health system has directed its attention almost exclusively to suicide, and relegated homicide to the criminal justice system. But that system asks only how evil are people who have committed murders and how much punishment they deserve – not what caused them to commit murder, and what we can do to prevent such behavior before it occurs. Criminology is of little help, because most violence is not criminal, and most crimes are not violent. More than experts in any of those fields, Shakespeare illuminates the thoughts, feelings, and social forces that drive people to kill others, themselves, or both.

Type
Chapter
Information
Holding a Mirror up to Nature
Shame, Guilt, and Violence in Shakespeare
, pp. 1 - 17
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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