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War and Nation in the Theatre of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries$
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Simon Barker

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780748627653

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748627653.001.0001

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The Exit Strategy

The Exit Strategy

(p.143) 6 The Exit Strategy
War and Nation in the Theatre of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries

Simon Barker

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter elaborates an argument about the relationship between war and tragedy, focusing on Hamlet. This play includes what some audience members in the years leading up to the death of Elizabethan may have considered one of the most astonishing representations of warfare in the whole of the unfolding Shakespeare canon. Fortinbras may be complimenting Hamlet by offering him the very best treatment according to his own militarised values, and the audience may miss its significance, but in fixing Hamlet thus he potentially seals off the prince from his own (or Horatio's) story: thus militarism usurps the tragic form. Diverse as the soldiers in Hamlet, Othello and King Lear are they invite audiences to consider the fact that military power is superficial, a matter more of outward display than inner sensibility, and that those who claim it as a badge of masculinity seem to be the most vulnerable men.

Keywords:   war, tragedy, Hamlet, Shakespeare, Fortinbras, Othello, King Lear, militarism

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