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date: 21 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Shakespearean tragedy works through the loss of any ‘given’—nature, or God, or ‘fate—that might explain human societies, histories, actions, destinies, relationships, and values. Shakespeare challenges us to understand tragedies not as responding to existential facts (desire, or mortality) or historical situations (Henry V’s invasion of France, or the fate of the Roman republic), but as responding to the fact that there are no givens that fully govern our activities. At the same time, Shakespearean tragedy works through the loss of social bonds on which we depend for the meaning and worth of our lives together—showing those bonds to be, in spite of that dependence, fully dissolvable. In this way, Shakespearean tragedy helps us make sense of how we interact with one another—without the help of any Archimedean standpoint, with only the interactions themselves as sources of intelligibility and meaning. In Shakespearean tragedy, our actions (must) explain themselves.

Keywords: Tragedy, Shakespeare, Herder, Hegel, A. C. Bradley, Freedom

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