Author(s): Stephen Greenblatt
'Brilliant' - Sunday Times
How does a truly disastrous leader - a sociopath, a demagogue, a tyrant - come to power?
How, and why, does a tyrant hold on to power?
And what goes on in the hidden recesses of the tyrant's soul?
For help in understanding our most urgent contemporary dilemmas, William Shakespeare has no peer.
As an ageing, tenacious Elizabeth I clung to power, a talented playwright probed the social and psychological roots and the twisted consequences of tyranny. What he discovered in his characters remains remarkably relevant today. With uncanny insight, he shone a spotlight on the infantile psychology and unquenchable narcissistic appetites of demagogues and imagined how they might be stopped.
In Tyrant, Stephen Greenblatt examines the themes of power and tyranny in some of Shakespeare's most famous plays -- from the dominating figures of Richard III, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Macbeth, and Coriolanus to the subtle tyranny found in Measure for Measureand The Winter's Tale.
Tyrant is a highly relevant exploration of Shakespeare's work that sheds new light on the workings of power.
Like many people, the author is tormented by the rise to power of the current occupant of the White House, hence this book. In it Stephen Greenblatt cleverly compares people and events from Shakespeare’s world with our own. Shakespeare offers us many types of tyrant; dupes, careerists, connivers and bullies, each attracted to power only to be corrupted by it. The central question therefore becomes; what would Shakespeare have made of Trump? The president is not mentioned by name but the analogies are clear. Greenblatt discusses Macbeth, Richard III, Lear, and their traits; narcissism, misogyny, indecency and so on. One chapter includes the role of the masses in the rise of the tyrant. These are the opportunistic, self-deceiving ‘enablers’, usually well born and self seeking. The tyrant surrounds himself with these people and often sacrifices them. I agree with another reviewer that Trump resembles a character not discussed here; Caliban (The Tempest). Caliban with a Twitter account – full of all kinds of ambitions and who secretly craves the approval of the very people he hates. That notwithstanding, this is an elegantly written and timely book. Mike