Holding a Mirror Up to Nature: Shame, Guilt, and Violence in Shakespeare


Product Details

Cambridge University Press
Publish Date
6.0 X 9.0 X 0.39 inches | 0.56 pounds

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About the Author

James Gilligan, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, NYU, wrote Violence (1996), Preventing Violence (2001), Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others (2011), a Times Literary Supplement 'Book of the Year', and co-authored The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump (2016), a New York Times best-seller. His advice has been sought by President Clinton, Tony Blair, Kofi Annan, the World Health Organization, and the World Court.
David A.J. Richards is Professor of Law at New York University. He is the author of over 20 books including: Free Speech and the Politics of Identity (1999), Disarming Manhood: Roots of Ethical Resistance (2005), The Deepening Darkness: Patriarchy, Resistance, and Democracy's Future (Cambridge University Press, 2009, with Carol Gilligan), Why Love Leads to Justice: Love Across the Boundaries (Cambridge University Press, 2015).


'Whoever would have thought that William Shakespeare could help us prevent murder in the twenty-first century? In this extraordinary book, James Gilligan and David Richards shepherd their readers through a riveting and brilliantly written journey, explaining how the Bard of Stratford-upon-Avon can offer unique insights into the origins of violence. I simply could not put this down!' Estela V. Welldon, Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Honorary Member, American Psychoanalytic Association, UK
'Were I able to persuade my political colleagues to imbibe the wisdom of one book, this is it. What Girard did with the novel, Gilligan and Richards do for Shakespeare, making him accessible and essential for understanding and responding to personal and political violence. It is both brilliant and transformational.' Lord John Alderdice, House of Lords, Westminster, UK
'James Gilligan and David Richards, an eminent psychiatrist and a distinguished legal scholar with vast experience dealing with violent men, brilliantly help us explore how Shakespeare's plays are among the most insightful sources for understanding human nature and human psychology. In the course of their work, they met men who were virtual reincarnations of Macbeth, Othello, Richard III, Timon and others, who felt so overwhelmingly shamed and humiliated that they did not know how to bring their emotional pain to an end except by destroying the world around them. Shame and its opposite, pride and honor, are the central themes Shakespeare uses to describe the motivations for violence. Gilligan and Richards show how Shakespeare enables us to understand not only what causes violence, but also how we can prevent it.' Bessel van der Kolk, author of The Body Keeps the Score, founder of the Trauma Research Foundation, and Professor of Psychiatry, Boston University
'The depth of Jim Gilligan's knowledge of the murderous mind and his understanding of shame as a motivating force are matched only by Shakespeare's poetic insights about what drives Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello and others. Psychoanalysis and great creative writing join in Holding a Mirror up to Nature and give unique insights to the problems of violence in our modern age. Gilligan's work - together with the rational voice of law scholar David Richards - offer to the practitioner of Shakespeare's theater a road map to understand the great tragic heroes. It is an exhilarating mix of scholarship and dramatic knowledge, which can only deepen our appreciation of the power and truth of the plays of William Shakespeare.' Tina Packer, Founding Artistic Director, Shakespeare & Company