This chapter assesses the extent to which harm is caused in Shakespeare’s plays when the moral order breaks down by focusing on plays in which the dramatis personae revert to the Hobbesian state of nature and unspeakable cruelty: Titus Andronicus, 3 Henry VI, Richard III, and King Lear. In such moments Shakespeare seems to invoke the image of the tiger, which he only uses fifteen times in all his works. In the constrained or tragic vison (Thomas Sowell), when there are no institutions with which to reinforce the morals that bind people together (authority, loyalty, fairness, sanctity), the worst aspects of humanity – as embodied in the tiger – are granted their fullest expression. However, in Shakespeare’s version of this vision, human nature provides the seeds of its own rebirth.
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