Passionate Shakespeare

Book chapter

Holbrook, Peter. (2020). Passionate Shakespeare. In In Craik, Katharine A. (Ed.). Shakespeare and emotion pp. 181-195 Cambridge University Press.
AuthorsHolbrook, Peter
EditorsCraik, Katharine A.

This essay argues that the traditional (and not just Romantic) association of Shakespeare with nature and passion ties his work to a non-doctrinaire politics and morals. As ‘the poet of nature’, in Dr Johnson’s phrase, Shakespeare is linked to an anti-systematic, open, essentially tolerant worldview. The essay brings this point into sharper focus by recounting how one of the poet’s strangest and most ardent admirers, the twentieth-century French-Rumanian writer E.M. Cioran, understood Shakespeare as an artist fundamentally hostile to philosophy and even to reason itself. For Cioran, Shakespeare, along with kindred authors such as Dostoievsky and Nietzsche, exploded systems and the pretensions of thought. It was Shakespeare’s commitment to the passions and experience, his basic irrationalism, that made his work such a powerful antidote to the murderous and programmatic utopianism that, Cioran believed, had blighted so much of human existence, not least in the twentieth century.

Page range181-195
Book titleShakespeare and emotion
PublisherCambridge University Press
Place of publicationCambridge, United Kingdom
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Publisher's version
All rights reserved
File Access Level
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
OnlineOct 2020
Publication process dates
Deposited17 Sep 2021
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