Speaking to readers in a voice that is adventurous rather than authoritative, innovative rather than institutional and speculative rather than orthodox, Linda Charnes’ provocative study of Shakespeare’s legacy in contemporary American and British politics explores the following themes:
- namesake princes and presidents
- stolen thrones and elections
- plutocrats and insurgents
- campaign trails and war-mongering
- waning monarchy and imperilled democracy
- revengers, early modern and postmodern.
Linked by focused readings of Hamlet and the Henriad, the essays follow Shakespeare’s two most famous royal sons, the Princes Hamlet and Hal, as they haunt contemporary political psychology in the early years of a new millennium, and especially in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Between devolution in Britain and the new ‘doctrine’ of pre-emptive strike in the United States, our contemporary Hamlets and Hals epitomize a debate – as fraught now as in Shakespeare’ day – about the cost of spin-doctoring legacies. In exploring how current political culture inherits Shakespeare, Hamlet’s Heirs challenges scholarly assumptions about historical periodicity, modernity and the uses of Shakespeare in present day contexts.
'A rigorous, theoretically based mining of the assumptions and anxieties underlining life in the Western world today ... Hamlet's Heirs brilliantly questions and challenges pervasive assumptions and business as usual in the arenas of both literary theory and contemporary politics.' – Renaissance Quarterly
'Balances irreverent wit with penetrating critical insight while discussing, respectively, how Anglo-American political traditions have sought to reconcile the notions of filial entitlement and meritocratic democracy.' --Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900
'In Hamlet's Heirs, Charnes takes Hamlet through several complementary iterations, creating a multifaceted portrait: historical, psychological, theoretical, pop-cultural, and primarily political. She weaves complex readings of sociology and poststructuralism with her own expert observations into an often brilliant tapestry... Linda Charnes has given us new ways to see how Hamlet pitches us into our own time and, without a doubt, beyond.' - Shakespeare Quarterly
'I found myself turning the pages irresistably because provoked into wanting to re-read and re-think Hamlet, despite having edited Hamlet Studies for twenty-five years.' R.W. Desai, The Shakespeare Newsletter