Shakespeare and the Idea of Western Civilization

Category: Book
By (author): Young, R. V.
Subject:  DRAMA / Shakespeare
Audience: professional and scholarly
Publisher: The Catholic University of America Press
Published: June 2022
Format: Book-paperback
Pages: 280
Size: 8.50in x 5.50in x 0.75in
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Additional Notes

From The Publisher*William Shakespeare is widely regarded as one of the greatest writers of the Western world and most certainly its greatest playwright. His actual relationship to Western civilization has not, however, been thoroughly investigated. At a time when that civilization, as well as its premier dramatist, is subjected to severe and increasing criticism for both its supposed crimes against the rest of the world and its fundamental principles, a reassessment of the culture of the West is overdue.

Shakespeare and the Idea of Western Civilization offers an unprecedented account of how the playwright draws upon his civilization's unique culture and illuminates its basic features. Rather than a treatment of all the works, R.V. Young focuses on how some of Shakespeare's best and most well-known plays dramatize the West's conception of social institutions and historical developments such as love and marriage, ethnic and racial prejudice, political order, colonialism, and religion. Shakespeare and the Idea of Western Civilization provides a spirited defense of the West and its greatest poet at a time when both are the object of virulent academic and political hostility.
Review Quote*"Fills a void in the criticism. Young has the intellectual courage to point out that Shakespeare's works not only display 'imaginative intelligence, skill, and creative genius' but also often affirm traditional ideas and beliefs. This approach counters the work of contemporary academicians, who at times display hostility to Shakespeare, employ revisionist perspectives, or utilize the plays to argue a particular ideology."-Lisa Marciano, Christendom College

"R.V. Young argues that Shakespeare is a modern saint of sorts, an exemplar of both Western and Christian ideals. Despite his ongoing cultural centrality, a cadre of postmodern academics complain that Shakespeare is 'complicit in all the sins of racial, sexual, and social oppression with which they brand the Western world.' The resulting academic estrangement now threatens both the Christian and classical heritage."-Jeffrey Kahan, editor, King Lear: New Critical Essays

"In an age of Shakespeare abuse, it is all too rare to come across a scholar who understands the Bard and his work as does R. V. Young. This marvelous work, the fruit of a lifetime of critical engagement, takes the reader into the depths of Shakespeare's genius."-Joseph Pearce, author of The Quest for Shakespeare: The Bard of Avon and the Church of Rome and Through Shakespeare's Eyes: Seeing the Catholic Presence in the Plays

Biographical NoteR.V. Young is professor of English emeritus at North Carolina State University.