Survival Strategies: Shakespeare on Power

May 17, 2019

Harvard University professor and former Modern Language Association (MLA) president Stephen Greenblatt will speak on “Survival Strategies: Shakespeare on Power” as part of the MLA Public Conversations Series. Professor Greenblatt’s talk will explore how, throughout his career, William Shakespeare returned again and again to questions that haunted him: How is it possible for seemingly stable societies to fall into the hands of disastrous leaders? Why do communities of free men and women, people who have every reason to look out for their own interests, succumb to those who have no regard for the common good? Why do people accept the lies of a man who is so obviously hurting their country? And is there a chance to stop the tyrant before it’s too late? In his dramas – from Richard III to Julius Caesar – William Shakespeare repeatedly dealt with these questions and told of the rise of the tyrants, their rule, and their decline. Shakespeare had to be careful: in his world, as in modern totalitarian states, there was no freedom of expression. Nevertheless, he developed exceptional skills at oblique politics, and the answers he proposed have exceptional relevance to modern times.

In partnership with The Modern Language Association (MLA)


Stephen Greenblatt is Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. He is the author of fourteen books, including Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics; The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve; The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (winner of the 2011 National Book Award and the 2012 Pulitzer Prize) and Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare. He is General Editor of The Norton Anthology of English Literature and of The Norton Shakespeare. He was named the 2016 Holberg Prize Laureate. His honors include the MLA’s James Russell Lowell Prize, the William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre, two Guggenheim Fellowships, and the Distinguished Humanist Award from the Mellon Foundation.

This season was generously supported by the following friends and partners:

Categories: Featured, Literature & Poetry