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Shakespeare's Moral Compass$
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Neema Parvini

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474432870

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474432870.001.0001

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Moral Philosophy in England during the Time of Shakespeare

Moral Philosophy in England during the Time of Shakespeare

Chapter:
(p.71) Chapter 3 Moral Philosophy in England during the Time of Shakespeare
Source:
Shakespeare's Moral Compass
Author(s):

Neema Parvini

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474432870.003.0003

This chapter provides the historical and philosophical underpinning that informs the rest of Shakespeare’s Moral Compass. Divided into four parts, it traces moral thought from antiquity to the time of Shakespeare covering four broad traditions. First, it considers the virtue ethics of Aristotle and, later, Thomas Aquinas, which provide the basic tenets of virtues and vices that lie at the heart of morality in this period. Second, the chapter covers Ancient Stoicism as described by Cicero, and later modified by Seneca and his concepts of the will and the self, which saw a revival of interest in England in the 1590s and 1600s, as evidenced by the work of Joseph Hall. Third, the chapter provides an overview of Academic scepticism, again as described by Cicero, and later reworked by Sextus Empiricus; a mode of thinking that was to prove highly influential in the early modern period, especially for a thinker who almost certainly influenced Shakespeare, Michel de Montaigne Finally, it considers Epicureanism, the impact of Lucretius’s poem De RerumNatura (“On the Nature of Things”), and its possible influence on the thinker who launched the most a radical assault on traditional Christian virtue ethics in the period, Niccolò Machiavelli.

Keywords:   Shakespeare, Moral Philosophy, Virtue Ethics, Thomas Aquinas, Stoicism, Scepticism, Montaigne, Epicurus, Lucretius, Machiavelli

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