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Playing Shakespeare's Villains

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Edited By Louis Fantasia

The essays in Playing Shakespeare’s Villains trouble our assumptions of what—and who—constitutes "villainy" in Shakespeare’s works, through probing and provocative analyses of the murky moral logics at play in the Bard’s oeuvre. Shakespeare spreads before us a panoply of evil, villainy, and amorality—of characters doing bad things for good reasons, bad things for bad reasons, and bad things for no reason at all. How does Shakespeare handle culpability and consequence? How much does he justify his villains’ actions? How much do we enjoy watching people get away with murder and mayhem? What are we to make of the moral universe that Shakesperare presents: a universe in which some villains are punished and others seem to be rewarded; where mischief can quickly turn violent; and where an entire world can be brought down by someone’s willful insistence on having one’s way? Questions like these animate the discussions in this lively volume, the second in the Playing Shakespeare’s Characters series.

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8. “Very fine people …” (Louis Fantasia)

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8.  “Very fine people …”

LOUIS FANTASIA

Empires collapse. Gang leaders Are strutting about like statesmen. The peoples Can no longer be seen under all those armaments. So the future lies in darkness and the forces of right Are weak. All this was plain to you When you destroyed a torturable body. “On the Suicide of the Refugee W.B.,” Bertolt Brecht1

Let’s assume for the moment that President Donald J. Trump is right when he said, in 2017, that there were “some very fine people” on both sides of a white nationalist “Unite the Right” rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia. A young woman, Heather Heyer, 32, was killed and dozens injured at this rally by some “very fine people.”2

Let’s assume, too, that there were very fine people at the Nuremburg rallies, Cambodian killing fields, and Klan lynchings. Let’s also assume that there were very fine people on both sides in Kosovo, Myanmar and Rwanda. And let’s assume (despite the stellar contributions of my collaborators in this volume) that there is no such thing as evil, and that there are only fine people on both sides, doing what they think is right and good.

Let’s assume that the fine people on both sides send their kids to school, pay taxes, vote, and go to church. Let’s assume, too, that because they are good and very fine, these people love more than they hate. They...

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