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Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
January 2023
Print publication year:
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Book description

This volume maps Shakespearean virtue in all its plasticity and variety, providing thirty-eight succinct, wide-ranging essays that reveal a breadth and diversity exceeding any given morality or code of behaviour. Clearly explaining key concepts in the history of ethics and in classical, theological, and global virtue traditions, the collection reveals their presence in the works of Shakespeare in interpersonal, civic, and ecological scenes of action. Paying close attention to individual identity and social environment, chapters also consider how the virtuous horizons broached in Shakespearean drama have been tested anew by the plays' global travels and fresh encounters with different traditions. Including sections on global wisdom, performance and pedagogy, this handbook affirms virtue as a resource for humanistic education and the building of human capacity.


‘This capacious and beautifully modulated book addresses “virtue” in all its early modern senses: force, potential, the power inherent in things, codes of human behavior, personal character, displays of skill. The forty contributors have produced many books in one. Shakespeare and Virtue combines philosophy, social history, theatre history, and political critique, considered across time from classical antiquity to the political conflicts of Shakespeare's day to the competing ideologies of today's world. Shakespeare and Virtue is a handbook to ways of thinking and acting in the early modern past but also in the here-and-now.'

Bruce R. Smith - General Editor, The Cambridge Guide to the Worlds of Shakespeare

‘Shakespeare's plays are full of moral decisions, crises, failures. Yet what is the appropriate language to describe them? For the first time, this book provides it: a handbook to understanding virtue in practice, in ancient and Renaissance philosophy, in global contexts today, and above all in the vibrant world of theatre.'

Brian Cummings - FBA, University of York

‘This extraordinary collection takes readers on a journey through the complex, sometimes conflicted, but always revelatory expressions of virtue in Shakespeare's plays. More than thirty essays by prominent and emerging experts collectively reinvigorate debates about virtue, reminding us that it was a dominant framework for understanding the early modern world and humans' place in it, while making the case for its continued relevance. The volume provides a thorough grounding in the traditions and influences that shape the infinite variety of virtues in Shakespeare's plays, accounting as well for their embodied, environmental, and performative dimensions. The results are deeply thoughtful, often moving, and endlessly provocative, providing readers a map for reimagining the restorative ethical practices that can nourish our own commitments to education, civic life, and community.'

Karen Raber - University of Mississippi

‘Shakespeare and Virtue knits together the strengths of an academic handbook with a guidebook's ability to inspire. Readers will want to keep this book close at hand not only for its capacious overview of Shakespearean virtues and their connections to a broad range of philosophies and religions, but also for its energizing reminders of the transformative potentialities of reading, performing and teaching Shakespeare's ‘virtue ecologies' in contexts of political activism, social justice, and ecological resilience.'

Kristine Steenbergh - Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

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