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Critical Hermeneutics and Shakespeare's History Plays

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William M. Hawley

This book provides new insights into the theatrical and philosophical foundations of Shakespeare's history plays through a dialogue with the theories of Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Paul Ricoeur. Widely regarded to be anti-historical and nihilistic, Derrida and Foucault are shown to hold as responsible an attitude toward politics, truth, and art as Ricoeur. In the author's close critique of the ten plays, the sometimes conflicting views of these theorists reveal Shakespeare's developing historical understanding. Rather than promulgating a single historical perspective, Shakespeare's «historiography» plays afford pluralistic views of myth, politics, gender, sexuality, intersubjectivity, and religion because of their profound theatricality. Shakespeare's «detour» into history and culture thus joins the skeptical dimension of critical hermeneutics.