Cover image for Shakespeare and violence
Shakespeare and violence
Foakes, R. A.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Physical Description:
xiii, 224 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Introduction: 'Exterminate all the brutes' -- Shakespeare's culture of violence -- Shakespeare and the display of violence -- Plays and movies: Richard III and Romeo and Juliet -- Shakespeare on war: King John to Henry V -- Violence, Renaissance tragedy, and Hamlet -- Central tragedies and violence -- Roman violence and power games -- Violence and the late plays -- Afterword

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR3069.V55 F63 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Shakespeare and Violence, first published in 2002, connects to anxieties about the problem of violence, and shows how similar concerns are central in Shakespeare's plays. At first Shakespeare exploited spectacular violence for its entertainment value, but his later plays probe more deeply into the human propensity for gratuitous violence, especially in relation to kingship, government and war. In these plays and in his major tragedies he also explores the construction of masculinity in relation to power over others, to the value of heroism, and to self-control. Shakespeare's last plays present a world in which human violence appears analogous to violence in the natural world, and both kinds of violence are shown as aspects of a world subject to chance and accident. This book examines the development of Shakespeare's representations of violence and explains their importance in shaping his career as a dramatist.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Foakes's numerous previous works include Hamlet versus Lear (CH, Sep'93) and the second edition of Philip Henslowe's Henslowe's Diary (2002). Here Foakes (emer., Univ. of California, Los Angeles) takes a chronological view of Shakespeare's histories, tragedies, the Roman plays, and late romances to demonstrate the playwright's deepening interest in man's instinctive predilection to violence--a prediliction, Foakes argues, that continues to hold true in the present time. A background chapter, "Shakespeare's Culture of Violence" (also the title of Derek Cohen's book, CH, Nov'93, which takes a sociopolitical view), outlines Shakespeare's likely experience with war, fratricide, torture, and questions of justice in classical and religious literature and in his own society. Subsequent chapters deal with Shakespeare's explorations of violence in all its variety: the gory spectacles of Henry VI and Titus Andronicus, the "unmotivated or barely motivated" villainies of Richard III and Romeo and Juliet (analyzed via recent film productions), Hamlet's unpremeditated murder of Polonius, the horror of tyranny in Lear, nature's disorders in romances like The Tempest, and much more. One is left with the impression that Foakes has overstated his case. Ten illustrations accompany the text. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Academic collections serving lower- and upper-division undergraduates; public collections. F. K. Barasch emerita, Bernard M. Baruch College, CUNY

Table of Contents

List of illustrations
1 Introduction: 'Exterminate all the brutes'
2 Shakespeare's culture of violence
3 Shakespeare and the display of violence
4 Plays and movies: Richard III and Romeo and Juliet
5 Shakespeare on war: King John to Henry V
6 Violence, Renaissance tragedy, and Hamlet
7 The central tragedies and violence
8 Roman violence and power games
9 Violence and the late plays
10 Afterword