March 24th, 2007

rock

meek are the pure of heart

Brutus’ fate is not his alone: in Shakespeare no character with a clear moral vision has a will to power and, conversely, no character with a strong desire to rule over others has an ethically adequate object. This is most obviously true of Shakespearean villains—the megalomaniac Richard III, the bastard Edmond (along with the ghastly Goneril, Regan, and Cornwall), the Macbeths, and the like—but it is also true of such characters as Bolingbroke in the Henriad plays, Cassius in Julius Caesar, Fortinbras in Hamlet, and Malcolm in Macbeth. Even victorious Henry V—Shakespeare's most charismatic hero—does not substantially alter the plays’ overarching skepticism about the ethics of wielding authority.
Stephen Greenblatt, Shakespeare and the Uses of Power, The New York Review of Books, Volume 54, Number 6, April 12, 2007