Shakespeare: Political Statecraft for a Christian World

Political science is becoming ever more reliant on abstract models divorced from human judgement, hope and Christian idealism.  In a word: humanism.  Shakespeare offers the political scientist an antidote to this methodological alienation, this self imposed exile from the political and moral concerns of governance.

Shakespeare reveals that a poetic imagination can display the very essence of political statecraft at its apogee.  Inspiring questions on the nature of statesmanship and political leadership.  Its relation to classical themes of republicanism, liberty, the rule of law, morality, the nature and limits of passion, and the character and limitations of democracy.

Exactly how?

If we arrange the outstanding characters of the great Shakespearean gallery in an ascending order of political and personal growth, we should bear in mind that as Shakespeare moves upward from the lower to higher levels in our display of character, he shifts the field of action from the macrocosm for the micro.  Giving the hero an ever larger share of the stage throughout the conflict.  In Hamlet, this field of action has been transferred almost completely in favor of the interiority of the hero in lieu of a politically and morally charged milieu.  This alone is the masterpiece of Shakespeares art along with Aeschylus’s ‘Prometheus’ and the dramatic monologues of Browning.  A single actor virtually monopolizes the stage in order to leave the greater scope of action to the surging political and spiritual forces which this one personality holds within itself.

What a theology of grace bestows on the human person is on full display in Shakespeare.  The humanism of Christianity elevates the ‘singularity’ of the human person.

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About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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