- Knights, L. C. "Shakespeare and Political Wisdom:
- A Note on the Personalism of Julius Caesar and
Coriolanus." Sewanee Review, 61 (1953), 43-55.
Thesis: Knights believes that literature can make a difference
in the real world of politics, not by directing our thinking
concerning the issue of the day, but by reminding us of general
truths which deeply affect how we handle any particular issue.
Specifically, he believes that both Julius Caesar and
Coriolanus show that abstraction in politics is dangerous:
The point is that whenever thought moves in terms of the massive
abstractions of "progressive parties," of "anti-Fascism," of "the
American way of life," of "people's democracies," of Socialist virtue
and Tory viciousness (or vice versa), it needs to be brought back to
the discipline of the actual. It is not our political shibboleths
but the decency and integrity of our human responsiveness that in the
not so long run decides the fate of nations. (54-55)
In Julius Caesar, Knights says, moral chaos results when men
attempt to rely on pure principle; the personal motivation simply
slips in the back door and disguises itself as an ideal. This moral
chaos results in a sense of monstrous barrenness, as when Brutus dips
his hands in the blood of his friend Caesar and proclaims "peace,
freedom, and liberty."
Bottom Line: Both persuasive and wise.