St. Martin’s Press, 1992

Shakespeare’s plays examine the theme of certainty with consummate skill, exploring evil and good, assurance and its absence, intuition and love, evidence and interpretation, and the dialectical methods used to guide moral action.

The first chapter of this important new book establishes the intellectual perspective of sixteenth and seventeenth- century epistemology, emphasizing the paradigm shift in dialectic, the art of logic, that precipitated a crisis of thought among such figures as John Dee, Christopher Marlowe, Francis Bacon, and Walter Raleigh. The rest of the book discusses fourteen of the plays, beginning with the early comedies, then treating tragedies, history plays, and one problem play in terms of their special approaches to the questions of certainty, showing how Shakespeare breathed life into what might have remained a scholastic debate.



I. Introduction: Backgrounds in Logic   1

II. Audience and Illusion: Certainty of Character in The Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer Night’s Dream 21

III. Certainty and Love at First Sight: The Heart Sees Deeper Than the Eye: Troilus and Cressida and Romeo and Juliet   45

IV. The Politics of Certainty: Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2;
Henry V; Julius Caesar 61

V. The Uncertainty of Certainty: Hamlet 79

VI. The Certainty of Evil: Richard III and Othello 93

VII. Imperfect Speech and Uncertain Language: Macbeth and King Lear 113

VIII. The Renuciation of Certainty: The Tempest 137

Notes 161

Index 195