Fiction Books:

Shakespeare's Promises


Paperback / softback

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Shakespeare's Promises by William J. Kerrigan
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Oaths, vows, contracts and promises are among the most momentous actions human beings can perform, in art as well as life. Although virtually ignored by literary theorists, these obligations motivate plots, test characters, provide rhetorical occasions, structure ironies and open thematic horizons. According to William Kerrigan, they had particular importance for Shakespeare, who wrote at a decisive moment in the history of promising, toward the end of its High Christian phase and near the beginning of its metaphysically lessened, though still central, role in the "contractual" state. Motivating his plots and supplying his characters with lofty rhetorical occasions, Shakespeare gave promising great dramatic life. More than that, promises made and kept "in good faith" reside at the heart of his idealism. Yet he also explores the ways in which promising and morality, for a variety of reasons, part company. After a discussion of promises in philosophy, law, psychology, politics, language and ordinary life, William Kerrigan presents detailed studies of "Richard III", "The Merchant of Venice", and "Othello" and concludes with a brief visit to the swearing scene in "Hamlet". "Shakespeare's Promises" should be a valuable resource, providing a fresh perspective to benefit all readers of Shakespeare.

Author Biography

William Kerrigan is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. His books include The Idea of the Renaissance, written with Gordon Braden, and Hamlet's Perfection, both available from Johns Hopkins.
Release date NZ
July 25th, 2003
Country of Publication
United States
Johns Hopkins University Press
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