Hegel and Shakespeare on Moral Imagination

By Jennifer Ann Bates

Subjects: Philosophy Of Literature, Hegel, Drama, Phenomenology, Literature
Paperback : 9781438432427, 402 pages, July 2011
Hardcover : 9781438432410, 402 pages, September 2010

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

List of Abbreviations
PART I. Sublations in Tragedy and Comedy
1. A Hegelian Reading of Good and Bad Luck in Shakespearean Drama
(Phen. of Spirit, King Lear, Othello, Hamlet, A Midsummer Night's Dream)
2. Tearing the Fabric: Hegel's Antigone, Shakespeare's Coriolanus, and Kinship-State Conflict
(Phen. of Spirit C. 6, Judith Butler's Antigone, Coriolanus)
3. Aufhebung and Anti-Aufhebung: Geist and Ghosts in Hamlet
(Phen. of Spirit, Hamlet)
4. The Problem of Genius in King Lear: Hegel on the Feeling Soul and the Tragedy of Wonder
(Anthropology and Psychology in the Encyclopaedia Philosophy of Mind, King Lear)
PART II. Ethical Life and the History Plays: The Development of Negative Infinite Judgment and the Limits of the Sovereign Self
Section 1: Sovereign Alienation and the Development of Wit
5. Richard II's Mirror and the Alienation of the Universal Will (of the "I" that Is a "We")
(Richard II, Phen. of Spirit C. 5)
6. Falstaff and the Politics of Wit: Negative Infinite Judgment in a Culture of Alienation
(Henry IV parts I & II, Phen. of Spirit C. 6, Philosophy of Right)
Section 2: Sovereign Deceit and the Rejection of Wit
7. Henry V's Unchangeableness: His Rejection of Wit and His Posture of Virtue Reinterpreted in the Light of Hegel's Theory of Virtue
(Philosophy of Right, Henry V)
8. Hegel's Theory of Crime and Evil: (Re)tracing the Rights of the Sovereign Self
(Aesthetics, Phen. of Spirit, Phil. of Right, Richard II through to Henry V)
9. Richard III, Hamlet, Macbeth, and Henry V: Conscience, Hypocrisy, Self-Deceit and the Tragedy of Ethical Life
(Phil. of Right, Richard III, Hamlet, Macbeth, Henry V)
Section 3: Sovereign Wit and the End of Alienation
10. Negation of the Negative Infinite Judgment vs. Sublation of It: Punishment vs. Pardon in The Philosophy of Right and Henry VIII (Phil. of Right, Phen. of Spirit C. 6 and Henry VIII)
PART III. Universal Wit: The Romance Plays and Absolute Knowing
11. Universal Wit—The Absolute Theater of Identity
(Phen. of Spirit C. 6 and 8, Pericles, The Tempest)
12. Absolute Infections and Their Cure
(Phen. of Spirit C. 6, The Winter's Tale)

Study of self-consciousness in Hegel and Shakespeare.


In this fascinating book, Jennifer Ann Bates examines shapes of self-consciousness and their roles in the tricky interface between reality and drama. Shakespeare's plots and characters are used to shed light on Hegelian dialectic, and Hegel's philosophical works on art and politics are used to shed light on Shakespeare's dramas. Bates focuses on moral imagination and on how interpretations of drama and history constrain it. For example: how much luck and necessity drive a character's actions? Would Coriolanus be a better example than Antigone in Hegel's account of the Kinship-State conflict? What disorients us and makes us morally stuck? The sovereign self, the moral pragmatics of wit, and the relationship between law, tragedy, and comedy are among the multifaceted considerations examined in this incisive work. Along the way, Bates traces the development of deleterious concepts such as fate, anti-Aufhebung, crime, evil, and hypocrisy, as well as helpful concepts such as wonder, judgment, forgiveness, and justice

Jennifer Ann Bates is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Duquesne University. She is the author of Hegel's Theory of Imagination, also published by SUNY Press.


"…outstanding…" — Slavoj Žižek in Absolute Recoil: Towards a New Foundation of Dialectical Materialism

"Reading Shakespeare with Hegel enables Jennifer Bates to present strikingly original readings of both the plays and the weighty tomes. She discloses unsuspected parallels between the overall trajectories of Shakespeare's corpus and Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. Both culminate in redemptive comedies of forgiveness that expand our sense of the burdens of philosophy and art. Bates also pushes Hegel toward more fitting aesthetic interpretations. She clarifies the dialectical significance of Falstaff's wit and Hamlet's melancholy, and she explains why Coriolanus provides a better model than Antigone for understanding the gendered collisions of ethical life. An extraordinary example of how to read philosophical and literary texts together. " — Andrew Cutrofello, author of The Owl at Dawn: A Sequel to Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit

"This ambitious and original project reminds us why these plays and Hegel's writings matter to us in the first place, and just how much they have to teach us. " — Paul A. Kottman, author of Tragic Conditions in Shakespeare: Disinheriting the Globe