Shakespeare and War

Honour at the Stake

in Critical Survey

How does Shakespeare represent war? Guest editor Patrick Gray reviews scholarship to date on the question, in light of contributions to a special issue of Critical Survey, ‘Shakespeare and War’. Drawing upon St. Augustine’s City of God, the basis for later just war theory, Gray argues that progressive optimism regarding the perfectibility of what St. Augustine calls the ‘City of Man’ makes it difficult for modern commentators to discern Shakespeare’s own more tragic, Augustinian sense of warfare as a necessary evil, given the fallenness of human nature. Modern misgivings about ‘honour’ also lead to misinterpretation. As Francis Fukuyama points out, present-day liberal democracies tend to follow Hobbes and Locke in attempting to ‘banish the desire for recognition from politics’. Shakespeare in contrast, like Hegel, as well as latter-day Hegelians such as Fukuyama, Charles Taylor and Axel Honneth, sees the faculty that Plato calls thymos as an invaluable instrument of statecraft.