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The Language of Power, the Power of Language: The Effects of Ambiguity on Sociopolitical Structures as Illustrated in Shakespeare’s Plays
by Stephen Cohen
Harvard University Press, 1987
Paper: 978-0-674-51056-2
Library of Congress Classification PR3017.C6 1987
Dewey Decimal Classification 822.33

In a fusion of historicist and deconstructive reading strategies, Stephen Cohen asserts the fundamental force of ambiguity on social and political structures in Othello, Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice, and Measure for Measure. He argues that there is an inherently “radical” ambiguity which cannot be controlled by countries or wits. Drawing from the works of a wide range of critics, including Jacques Derrida and Stephen Greenblatt, Cohen show how language itself erodes usurpers’ intentions to shape a world according to their own designs. His account of the transactions between author and reader provides a skeptical critique of readings that remove the loose ends that such “radical” ambiguities impart to the text.
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