Leon Craig, Of Philosophers and Kings: Political Philosophy in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and King Lear (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001)
Summary from the Publisher:
This innovative work argues that Shakespeare was as great a philosopher as he was a poet, and that his greatness as a poet derived even more from his power as a thinker than from his genius for linguistic expression. Accordingly, Leon Craig’s interpretation of the plays – focusing primarily on Macbeth and King Lear, but including extensive comments on Othello, The Winter’s Tale, and Measure for Measure – are intended to demonstrate what can be gained from reading Shakespeare ‘philosophically.’
Shakespeare, Craig argues, had a persistent fascination with the relationship between politics and philosophy, and even more precisely, with the idea of a philosophical ruler. Macbeth and King Lear are given detailed exposition for the special light they cast on tensions between philosophy and politics, knowledge and power. They show how the pursuit of an adequate understanding of certain practical issues – transient yet recurring – necessarily leads to considerations that far transcend the particular circumstances in which these practical problems arise. Metaphysics, cosmology, and man’s confrontation with nature, were made dramatically manifest by Shakespeare to challenge and promote philosophic activity among his audience and readers.
Unconventional in its approach, but working within the tradition of such critics as Allan Bloom and Harry Jaffa, Craig’s book makes a substantial contribution to understanding the general principles of Shakespearean drama.