Using Shakespeare's Plays to Explore Education Policy Today: Neoliberalism through the lens of Renaissance humanism, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Using Shakespeare's Plays to Explore Education Policy Today

Neoliberalism through the lens of Renaissance humanism, 1st Edition

By Sophie Ward


136 pages

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Shakespeare is revered as the greatest writer in the English language, yet education reform in the English-speaking world is informed primarily by the ‘market order’, rather than the kind of humanism we might associate with Shakespeare. By considering Shakespeare’s dramatisation of the principles that inform neoliberalism, this book makes an important contribution to the debate on the moral failure of the market mechanism in schools and higher education systems that have adopted neoliberal policy.

The utility of Shakespeare’s plays as a means to explore our present socio-economic system has long been acknowledged. As a Renaissance playwright located at the junction between feudalism and capitalism, Shakespeare was uniquely positioned to reflect upon the nascent market order. As a result, this book utilises six of his plays to assess the impact of neoliberalism on education. Drawing from examples of education policy from the UK and North America, it demonstrates that the alleged innovation of the market order is premised upon ideas that are rejected by Shakespeare, and it advocates Shakespeare’s humanism as a corrective to the failings of neoliberal education policy.

Using Shakespeare's Plays to Explore Education Policy Today will be of key interest to researchers, academics and students in the fields of education policy and politics, educational reform, social and economic theory, English literature and Shakespeare.


Using Shakespeare's Plays to Explore Education Policy Today is a lucid, well–informed and compelling account of the philosophical basis for market–based social policy in the field of education. In a bold challenge to contemporary orthodoxies in contemporary, market based political economy, Sophie Ward uses strong readings of Shakespeare’s plays to discover the deep contradictions in this philosophy in order to reveal its dehumanizing effect on both students and teachers. Dr. Ward’s book will be indispensable for anyone concerned with the current state of educational policy, a readership that includes everyone now engaged with teaching and research on Shakespeare.’

Michael D. Bristol, Professor Emeritus, Department of English, McGill University, Canada

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Entrepreneurial risk: Hamlet 2. Performativity: Measure for Measure 3. School Leadership: Macbeth 4. Rational choice: Antony and Cleopatra 5. Commodification: King Lear 6. Knowledge: The Tempest Conclusion Plot Summaries

About the Author

Sophie Ward is Lecturer in the School of Education, Durham University, UK. She is a member of the UK team within the European Policy Network on School Leadership (EPNoSL), which has recently secured funding from the EU for the next stage of research into developing an English Action Plan on School Leadership. The project is due for completion in March 2015.

About the Series

Routledge Research in Education Policy and Politics

The Routledge Research in Education Policy and Politics series aims to enhance our understanding of key challenges and facilitate on-going academic debate within the influential and growing field of Education Policy and Politics.

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