Sucking the Sweets of Sweet Philosophy: Shakespeare’s Dramatic Use of Philosophy
This essay explores the suggestion that Shakespeare incorporates philosophical elements into his plays to pursue dramatic rather than philosophical or intellectual goals. I suggest that attending to this dramatic dimension reveals how the plays can make a genuine contribution to philosophical thought while avoiding a common form of philosophical bardolatry that attributes to the plays an explicitly philosophical intention they lack. The essay breaks down into three sections. First, it provides an overview of the way Shakespeare uses philosophy to pursue three kinds of dramatic goals in the plays. Next, it outlines the way our study of those effects contributes to philosophy. Finally, it explains how focusing on the issue of dramatic contribution enables us to address three important concerns that have been raised over any effort to link literature to philosophy.
Keywords: Shakespeare, Philosophy, Performance, Philosophical method, Literature as philosophy