Making Make-Believe Real


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Politics as Theater in Shakespeare's Time

Garry Wills

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A penetrating study of the images, symbols, pageants, and creative performances ambitious Elizabethans used to secure political power

Shakespeare’s plays abound with kings and leaders who crave a public stage and seize every opportunity to make their lives a performance: Antony, Cleopatra, Richard III, Othello, and many others. Such self-dramatizing characters appear in the work of other playwrights of the era as well, Marlowe’s Edward II and Tamburlaine among them. But Elizabethan playwrights were not alone in realizing that a sense of theater was essential to the exercise of power. Real rulers knew it, too, and none better than Queen Elizabeth. In this fascinating study of political stagecraft in the Elizabethan era, Garry Wills explores a period of vast cultural and political change during which the power of make-believe to make power real was not just a theory but an essential truth.
Wills examines English culture as Catholic Christianity’s rituals were being overturned and a Protestant queen took the throne. New iconographies of power were necessary for the new Renaissance liturgy to displace the medieval church-state. The author illuminates the extensive imaginative constructions that went into Elizabeth’s reign and the explosion of great Tudor and Stuart drama that provided the imaginative power to support her long and successful rule.

Garry Wills is Emeritus Professor of History at Northwestern University. Among his nearly forty books are Rome and Rhetoric; Verdi’s Shakespeare; the Pulitzer Prize–winning Lincoln at Gettysburg; and Inventing America, a National Book Critics Circle Award winner. He lives in Chicago, IL.

"As entertainingly readable as it is broadly informative.”—John Simon, New York Times Book Review on Rome and Rhetoric
"Rome and Rhetoric is as entertainingly readable as it is broadly informative.”—John Simon, New York Times Book Review
"This tour de force . . . shows why our view of ancient Rome is very much Shakespeare's."—Publishers Weekly
"[A] penetrating, provocative analysis."—Booklist
"Rome and Rhetoric is a fascinating look at the way Shakespeare has shaped our view of ancient Rome through the characters of his Julius Caesar."—Philip Freeman, Author of Julius Caesar
“Riveting …a double-barreled salvo that hits two bull’s-eyes.”—John Simon, The New York Times
“Wills’s joyously engaged, scholarly yet personable essay is not just a treat but also a banquet succulent enough to make Shakespeareans and Verdians of all who partake of it.”
Booklist, starred review
ISBN: 9780300212716
Publication Date: June 30, 2015
424 pages, 5 11/16 x 9
Rome and Rhetoric

Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

Garry Wills

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