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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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(p.295) Chapter 11 Liberty
Shakespeare's Moral Compass

Neema Parvini

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter, which concludes Shakespeare’s Moral Compass, finds that all six of Jonathan Haidt’s moral foundations – authority, loyalty, fairness, sanctity, care, and liberty – are registered in Shakespeare’s plays, but they do not function independently of each other. Rather, they form an interlocking set of principles which together we can call “Shakespeare’s Moral Compass”. These interlocking principles can coalesce to form positive or negative outcomes: the “Virtuous Circle” or the “Vicious Circle”. It argues that for all his undoubted complexity, there are four simple lessons that run through all of Shakespeare’s plays: first, there is always a choice, it is never too late to choose to do the right thing. Second, the responsibility ultimately stops with you, because there is no divine or cosmic justice that will otherwise intervene; accordingly do not expect rewards or recognition for your good deeds. Third, we should not write anyone off, but rather make an effort to understand where they coming from, and try to see things from their point of view, because empathy and compassion are better than hatred, both morally and consequentially. Fourth, if we feel hard done by or slighted by unfairness, mercy is better than revenge both morally and consequentially.

Keywords:   Shakespeare, Liberty, Jonathan Haidt, Moral Philosophy, Morality, Moral Compass, Ethics, Freedom

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