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Shakespeare’s Moral Compass

Neema Parvini

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Overturns orthodox thinking about morality in Shakespeare’s plays by updating our understanding of the human mind

This ground-breaking study fearlessly combines latest research in evolutionary psychology, historical scholarship and philosophy to answer a question that has eluded critics for centuries: what is Shakespeare’s moral vision? At a political and cultural moment in which many of us are taking stock and looking for meaning, and in which moral outrage and polarisation seem endemic, this book radically reimagines how we might approach great works of literature to find some answers.

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Part 1: Conflicting Moral Visions
1. Navigating Shakespeare’s Moral Compass
2. The Constrained Vision of Evolutionary Ethics
3. Moral Philosophy in England during the Time of Shakespeare
4. The Reformation, Capitalism and Ethics in England during the 1590s and early 1600s
Part 2: Shakespeare’s Moral Compass
5. Past Reflections on Shakespeare and Morality
6. Authority
7. Loyalty
8. Fairness
9. Sanctity
10. Care
11. Liberty

About the Author

Neema Parvini is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Surrey. His previous books include Shakespeare’s History Plays (EUP, 2012), Shakespeare and Contemporary Theory (Bloomsbury, 2012), Shakespeare and Cognition (Palgrave, 2015) and Shakespeare and New Historicist Theory (Bloomsbury, 2017).


Shakespeare’s Moral Compass is an exemplar of what scholarship in the humanities should be – illuminating the human condition while drawing from multiple disciplines.

- Jonathan Haidt, New York University Stern School of Business, and author of The Righteous Mind

A very well written book, and considering the complicated history of ethics in the humanities, it is particularly remarkable for its clarity in detailing Shakespeare's contribution.

- James A. Knapp, Loyola University Chicago

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