Brett Williams's Reviews > Shakespeare's Politics

Shakespeare's Politics by Allan Bloom
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it was amazing

Another inspiring tour de force

Bloom’s insight into the deepest aspects of humanity may not be matched by anyone, past or present. Having been given the gift of his existence we are magnificently lucky he wrote what he knew so we might scratch the surface. Once again Bloom inspires by penetrating our perpetual present with the permanent and universal. This time he performs this magic through analysis of Shakespeare’s plays, their political message, Shakespeare’s grasp of what makes us who we are and the great, forever present teacher he has the capacity to serve as, if, at least for the moment, we ignore “new critic” sermons. (He means postmodern sophistry.) What makes Bloom so uplifting is his success in communicating power to the reader. With Bloom’s assistance, not control, the reader realizes we too hold the keys to our richest experiences, unavailable to those attached to fashionable dogmas, Right or Left.

Shakespeare’s plays deal with fragile balances of humanity as individuals and as associations (civilization) with their impossible reconciliations between competing concepts and ideals, which is what both are made of. The Jew and Christian in Venice – their conflicts between what matters most while still members of the same society, which though peaceful and prosperous engages in the simplification of man; The strength and weakness of men in love, with women and their own self image; the root of tragedy suffered by the hero precisely due to his heroic strengths. Shakespeare acts on so many levels it’s hard to fathom anyone could grasp it all without Bloom as escort.

Bloom has a habit of telling the truth about our circumstances and for that he is sure to be character assassinated by those unable to deal with it. We do not, he says, “look at all to books when [we] meet problems in life or think about [our] goals; there are no literary models for [our] conceptions of virtue and vise.” Reflecting a deeper fact about “the decay of common understanding of – and agreement on – first principles that is characteristic of our times.” Resulting in a “decided lowering of tone in [our] reflections on life and its goals.” Thus we are “technically well equipped but Philistine.” But Shakespeare provides an opportunity to see out of this, as do other great books Bloom was so taken by and wrote about elsewhere.


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Quotes Brett Liked

Allan Bloom
“The most striking fact about contemporary university students is that there is no longer any canon of books which forms their taste and imagination...This state of affairs itself reflects the deeper fact of the decay of the common understanding of - and agreement on - first principles that is characteristic of our times.”
Allan Bloom, Shakespeare's Politics

Reading Progress

Finished Reading
April 1, 2014 – Shelved

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