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date: 20 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Because Carl Schmitt’s work on political theology and representation in politics presuppose a mythic basis for political order, Hamlet or Hecuba is important for providing a theory of the relationship between tragic myth and politics. If much of his work involves an attempt to understand the representational aspect of politics, Schmitt’s foray into Shakespeare criticism rejects a kind of art that is divorced from political concerns. Politics underlies the tragic effect of art by forcing the playwright to alter the plot to avoid politically determined taboos in a kind of self-censorship. In addition, this chapters argues, Schmitt develops a more aesthetic understanding of this political effect that accords better with Walter Benjamin’s idea that art can recapitulate the otherwise unspoken political exigencies of an epoch. In contrast to Benjamin’s argument in his Trauerspiel book, however, Schmitt’s theory of the relation of myth to politics rejects a modernization story in which myth gives way to reason.

Keywords: Carl Schmitt, Hamlet or Hecuba, tragedy, myth, William Shakespeare, Walter Benjamin, Trauerspiel

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