Of Shakespeare and Politics – Part 1


October 28, 2012 by Messiah College Department of Politics

The following post was written by Casey Daggett, a sophomore in the Politics Department.

I supposed I must have looked like the stereotypical English major, huddled over a thick book and sipping on coffee, scarf neatly arranged around my shoulders and glasses perched on my nose as my fingers tapped a dying pen next to the occasional line. An amused upperclassman passed by, no doubt entertained by the immense attention paid by such a small girl to so a large book. Unable to keep the smile out of his words, he asked what I happened to be reading and just how much it weighed in its entirety. Blushing thoroughly, I managed a proud grin and flipped it to reveal the cover; a portrait of Shakespeare centered between intricate, gilded designs that managed to my Complete Works of William Shakespeare look a good bit more expensive than the twenty dollars I had paid for it at Barnes & Noble the month prior.

He gave a quick nod of approval as he recognized it, a brow perking slightly as he inquired as to whether I enjoyed being an English major. After a small shake of my head and the admission that I was, in fact, not an English major, the other brow rose as he questioned further. If he was surprised that I was not a theatre major as he asked next, then he was altogether shocked as I stated that I was, in fact, a Politics major. Furthermore, I took the Shakespeare class not as a general education requirement, a required foray into a realm of understanding outside my major, but simply because I both enjoyed and appreciated the Bard. Thoroughly confused by now, he issued a short laugh and shrugged, admitting that he saw no relation between the two but wished both my back and I the best with carrying about a book so large.

While I’d already considered perhaps jotting a few ideas down, this encounter was directly responsible for the creation of this post . You see, politics is often considered to exist primarily in the present, a study of current events impacted by global trends and shifts. While some understanding can be gained from analysis of past events, more often than not a larger emphasis is placed on current events and at least attempted, if not accurate, predictions at what may follow. Shakespeare is too often relegated as a dusty old author determined to frustrate high school students, his plays and characters artifacts of a time long past.

However, I strongly believe, and would argue, that at its central core, the study politics is a study of people. Within each major conflict, every movement, there exists a personal story, a struggle decidedly human. And who has better captured humanity and its struggles than William Shakespeare? Shakespeare’s plays delve into the murkiness of the human experience, capturing its triumphs and tragedies with unparalleled accuracy and beauty. Characters such as Brutus, Macbeth, Titus Andronicus and Shylock speak to us of ambition, vengeance, betrayal  and power while characters such as Prospero, Portia, Cordelia and Benedick appeal for mercy, grace, justice and kindness. These traits, both positive and negative, are just as common upon the global stage as they were upon the Globe stage.

Through this blog, I hope to use Shakespeare’s plays as a lens to better understand and analyze current events and trends relevant to the study of politics, delving into some of the world’s most famous monologues, scenes and characters in the process. Hope you enjoy and look for the first official post in the next few days!

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One thought on “Of Shakespeare and Politics – Part 1

  1. Nice post, Casey. I was a History and Politics major before deciding to go in to English, and I still went in to English with the idea of eventually going in to Politics. That didn’t happen, but I’m glad to see the way Messiah College student bring together learning in different disciplines. Now that I’m an academic dean, I think both my study of politics and of English have been invaluable. I’ll look forward to reading these in the future

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