Review of "Tragic conditions in Shakespeare: disinheriting the globe" by Paul A Kottman
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Professor Kottman has written a thoughtful and thought-provoking book. It addresses very major issues, in what is for the most part quite an original way, and I found much of what I read illuminating. His main concern is accurately described on the dust jacket: ‘According to Kottman, the lives of Shakespeare’s protagonists are conditioned by social bonds—kinship ties, civic relations, economic dependencies, political allegiances—that unravel irreparably.’ As a generalisation this seems rather strong: there are, of course, also plays which work towards harmony after what seemed tragic difficulties, or which in general aspire towards happy endings without much suffering en route. Indeed, even in the case of a bleak tragedy like King Lear surely Lear is reconciled to Cordelia at the end even though she is murdered, and social order will be re-established by Edgar. Nevertheless, there are, in Shakespeare, indeed many instances of bonds which do unravel.