‘And nothing brings me all things’

Shakespeare’s philosophy of nothing

Authored by: Jessica Chiba

The Routledge Companion to Shakespeare and Philosophy

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  October  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138936126
eBook ISBN: 9781315677019
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315677019-25

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Abstract

‘To be or not to be’, ‘I am not what I am’, ‘I must nothing be’: many of the significant and complex lines in Shakespeare’s plays evince his pervasive interest in the ontological questions of life, death, being, non-being and nothingness. But what does Shakespeare mean by ‘being’, and ‘nothing’? Are they equivalent to life and death? Plenty of critics have picked up on the significance of nothingness in Shakespeare’s plays, but few have dealt with the full philosophical significance of Shakespeare’s use of ‘nothing’, and particularly his understanding of ‘being nothing’. This chapter seeks to analyse Shakespeare’s use of ‘nothing’ from a philosophical perspective in order to shed light on the ontological depth of Shakespeare’s exploration of existence.

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