Charismatic Authority in Early Modern English Tragedy
Charismatic groups form around a leader who displays extraordinary abilities in times of social distress and who is often thought to have supernatural or magical powers. Raphael Falco demonstrates that English tragedies are full of such figures, including Marlowe's Tamburlaine; Shakespeare's Richard II, Hamlet, and Othello; Milton's Samson; and the various dramatic representations of Cleopatra. Most charisma is at first revolutionary, challenging traditional or bureaucratic forms of authority. But sooner or later groups that depend on the pure or personal charisma of a central figure begin to change, even to break down. Tragedies often focus on this difficult process of charismatic transformation--a process, Falco argues, that is best understood not in terms of a single tragic figure but as a group experience.
Charismatic Authority in Early Modern English Tragedy reassesses the force of group experience in tragedy by combining literary analysis with research in sociological theory, particularly the theories of Max Weber. Chapters address such manifestations of authority as pure charisma, lineage charisma, office charisma, and erotic charisma. This is a genuinely interdisciplinary critical study that will interest scholars of drama as well as critics attracted to sociological approaches to literature.
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In this scene we witness not only Richard's witty manipulations but also a socially
determined phenomenon involving the royal charisma. As Edward Shils explains,
as if with Richard in mind (though he does not mention him in a list that ...
A similar "progress" is in evidence in the deposition scene, although
Shakespeare has deliberately undermined the progressive decline of Richard's
pronouns by holding back Bolingbroke from any sort of progessive ascent. As a
result there is ...
There seems little question that, although Hamlet is complaining about Claudius
in this scene, the complaints more properly are aimed at prior rulers, Old Hamlet
supplying the readiest example to Hamlet's experience. Thus, just instants ...
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