1st Edition

Family Dramas Intimacy, Power and Systems in Shakespeare's Tragedies

By Gwyn Daniel Copyright 2019
    312 Pages
    by Routledge

    314 Pages
    by Routledge

    Most of Shakespeare’s tragedies have a family drama at their heart. This book brings these relationships to life, offering a radical new perspective on the tragic heroes and their dilemmas. Family Dramas: Intimacy, Power and Systems in Shakespeare's Tragedies focusses on the interactions and dialogues between people on stage, linking their intimate emotional worlds to wider social and political contexts.

    Since family relationships absorb and enact social ideologies, their conflicts often expose the conflicts that all ideologies contain. The complexities, contradictions and ambiguities of Shakespeare’s portrayals of individuals and their relationships are brought to life, while wider power structures and social discourses are shown to reach into the heart of intimate relationships and personal identity. Surveying relevant literature from Shakespeare studies, the book introduces the ideas behind the family systems approach to literary criticism. Explorations of gender relationships feature particularly strongly in the analysis since it is within gender that intimacy and power most compellingly intersect and frequently collide.

    For Shakespeare lovers and psychotherapists alike, this application of systemic theory opens a new perspective on familiar literary territory.


    Series Editor’s Foreword by Charlotte Burck

    Preface by Gill Gorell Barnes


    Chapter One. A Family Systems Approach.

    Chapter Two. Interpretations of the Tragedies.

    Chapter Three. "Oh cursed spite that ever I was born to set it right": Legacies and searches for alternative identities in Hamlet.

    Chapter Four. "Being weak, seem so": Power, status and identity loss in King Lear.

    Chapter Five. "And yet nature, erring from itself": Racism, gender and intimate violence in Othello.

    Chapter Six. "Wrenched with an unlineal hand": The dynamics of violence in Macbeth.

    Chapter Seven. "Let me have war, say I": Man as a fighting machine in Coriolanus.

    Chapter Eight. "The noblest-hateful love": Contradiction and irreverence in Troilus and Cressida.

    Chapter Nine. "Let Rome in Tiber Melt": Subverting Roman identity in Anthony and Cleopatra.

    Chapter Ten. "Tis but thy name that is my enemy": Freedom and constraint in Romeo and Juliet.

    Chapter Eleven. Endings.

    Appendix. Plot summaries.




    Gwyn Daniel has practiced as a Family Therapist, Trainer and Clinical Supervisor within the National Health Service and co-founded the Oxford Family Institute. She has authored or co-authored many professional books and articles. In the past ten years, she has given presentations internationally on her family systems approach to Shakespeare’s tragedies.

    "This book is a feast for family therapists and Shakespeare lovers alike. How pleasurable to see systemic ideas reflected in different light as Gwyn Daniel puts them to use in her lively reading of Shakespeare’s plays. And how pleasurable to appreciate, yet again, across time and culture and contexts, the drama and complexity of human relating and the beauty of Shakespeare." --Carmel Flaskas, Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Social Sciences, University of New South Wales, Australia

    "Gwyn Daniel is a phenomenally astute and sensitive reader of people and relationships; she is also a phenomenally astute and sensitive reader of Shakespeare’s plays. This book combines her skills in family therapy and in Shakespeare. The result is a fresh reading of major plays, with new insights in every chapter. It is a book that also displays acute theatrical sensitivity: what we see on stage is characters performing relationally. The Shakespeare lover, the therapist, and the theatre-goer will find much to treasure in this valuable book. Gwyn Daniel distils her immense knowledge and her close reading of Shakespeare into precise observations that consistently offer perceptive  articulations of social systems and family relations." --Laurie Maguire, Professor of Shakespeare, University of Oxford and Tutorial Fellow, Magdalen College