To Be Or Not To Be: Colin McGinn Dissects The Philosophy of Shakespeare’s Plays

Colin McGinn
Colin McGinn

William Shakespeare (15641616) is best known as the greatest writer in the English language, but he was also a philosopher of note. His plays give us a glimpse of his views about human nature and the world in general.

Author of Shakespeare's Philosophy: Discovering the Meaning Behind the Plays, Colin McGinn was educated at Oxford University. He is the author of 16 other books, including The Making of a Philosopher. He has written for the London Review of Books, The New Republic, the New York Times Book Review, and other publications. He has taught philosophy at University College London, Oxford, and Rutgers University, and is currently a distinguished professor of philosophy at the University of Miami.

Q: Shakespeare is considered to this day as the greatest writer in the English language. In his own time, aside from being a playwright, an actor, and a businessman, was he also considered to be a great thinker?

A: We don't really know what people thought about Shakespeare in his own time. He was a very deep man, but he was thought of more in terms of being a playwright than a philosopher.

Shakespeare also made the Greek tradition available to people in a more digestible form and kept those themes alive in his plays. The fact that he belonged to the intellectual tradition, and not just the theatrical one, made those themes come alive in his plays.

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