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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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The rich and the poor in Shakespeare

George Bernard Shaw considered himself a socialist, but was apt to make surprising remarks about the poor. “Hamlet’s experiences simply could not have happened to a plumber,” he wrote in the preface to his play The Dark Lady of the Sonnets in 1910, and “A poor man is useful on the stage only as a blind man is: to excite sympathy.”

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Very Short Introductions Online

Very Short Resolutions: filling the gaps in our knowledge in 2016

Why make New Year’s Resolutions you don’t want to keep? This year the Very Short Introductions team have decided to fill the gaps in their knowledge by picking a VSI to read in 2016. Which VSIs will you be reading in 2016? Let us know in the comment section below or via the Very Short Introductions Facebook page.

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9780198745761

Terrorist tactics, terrorist strategy

Terrorism in the early modern world was rather different from terrorism today. In the first place, there wasn’t any dynamite or automatic weaponry. It was harder to kill. In the second place, the idea of killing people indiscriminately, without regard to their identity, didn’t seem to occur to anyone yet. But still, there was lots of violence using terrorist tactics.

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“Our fathers lied”: Rudyard Kipling as a war poet

The privileged poets of the Great War are those who fought in it—Rosenberg, Owen, Sassoon. This is natural and human, but it is not fair. Kipling is one of the finest poets of the War, but he writes as a parent, a civilian, a survivor—all three of them compromised positions.

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Illuminating Shakespeare

Shakespeare and Islam

Without Islam there would be no Shakespeare. This may seem surprising or even controversial to those who imagine a “national bard” insulated from the wider world. Such an approach is typified in the words of the celebrated historian A.L. Rowse, who wrote that when it came to creatively connecting with that world, Shakespeare, the “quiet countryman,” was “the least engaged writer there ever was.”

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bleak house

Fog everywhere: an extract from Charles Dickens’ Bleak House

London. Michaelmas term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln’s Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill.

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Gods and religion in Shakespeare’s work [infographic]

Shortly after her coronation in 1558 Queen Elizabeth I reasserted and maintained royal supremacy within the English church, thus confirming her power as a Protestant leader. Shakespeare’s writing flourished under her reign, when Catholic and Protestant doctrines developed distinct methods of worship, mediation, and, perhaps most significantly, power and authority.

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Seditious Shakespeare: beyond hierarchy

Given that Shakespeare’s company enjoyed royal patronage, performed regularly at Court, and became known as the King’s Men upon the accession of James I in 1603, you’d be forgiven for assuming that his plays were bent on buttressing rather than subverting the status quo. That assumption certainly seems to be backed up in Troilus and Cressida by Ulysses’ apocalyptic vision of the anarchy that’s bound to ensue when “degree, priority and place” are not strictly observed: “Take but degree away, untune that string, / And hark what discord follows.”

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9780199689828 Zipes OC Fairy Tales

Which fairy tale character are you? [quiz]

The magic of fairy tales doesn’t just lie in their romantic landscapes and timeless themes of good against evil. The best fairy tales are always populated with compelling and memorable characters – like the rags-to-riches princess, the gallant prince on horseback set to save the day, or the jealous and lonely evil king or queen. Which famous fairy tale character do you think you’re most like?

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9780199945115

Birthday letters from Jane Austen

Happy 240th birthday, Jane Austen! Jane Austen was born 16 December 1775 in Hampshire, England. Birthdays were important events in Jane Austen’s life – those of others perhaps more so than her own.

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Emma in Macedonia

Like Mansfield Park, the novel that precedes it, Emma is a closely defended study of English life. Begun, according to Cassandra Austen’s chronology of her sister’s compositions, 21 January 1814, before the Fall of Paris and Napoleon’s exile to Elba, it was completed on 29 March 1815, just months before the battle of Waterloo (June 1815) and Napoleon’s second and final abdication.

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Todres blog

Building a culture of human rights

This year, many in government and civil society will be focused on the Syrian refugee crisis and other urgent human rights situations. The seemingly-endless stream of human rights emergencies demands immediate action.

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