Shakespeare’s embodied Stoicism

Authored by: Donovan Sherman

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:

10.4324/9781315677019-41

 Download Chapter

 

Abstract

In Shakespeare’s day, two popular understandings of Stoicism coexisted uneasily. The first was personified by the stock Stoic character who appeared in drama: a misanthropic, comically unfeeling foil. The second was nearly the opposite: a more subtle figure who in fact opened themselves up to the universe. This latter conception emerged in the translations of classical Stoic texts and Neo-Stoic syntheses with Christian ethos. This essay examines the tension between these models. I turn to Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing, alongside passages from Renaissance translations of Stoic philosophers such as Seneca and Epictetus as well as the Neo-Stoic work De Constantia by Justus Lipsius. My contention is that the form of embodiment sponsored by Stoicism was non-mimetic and thus caused a crisis when viewed onstage alongside more traditionally representative forms of theatre. Shakespeare’s plays—specifically, Hamlet’s anxieties over acting and Hero’s radical openness—give us a powerful model of parsing out different modes of embodiment: the more subtle, radically open practice of Stoicism, on the one hand, and the codes of acting that necessitate staged drama, on the other.

 Cite
Search for more...
Back to top

Use of cookies on this website

We are using cookies to provide statistics that help us give you the best experience of our site. You can find out more in our Privacy Policy. By continuing to use the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.