The Imperial Design and Shakespeare
Mohit Ul Alam
Abstract: My paper aims at showing that Shakespeare worked within an imperial paradigm. The basis for saying so is that in Europe, starting with the ancient Greece, the idea of the empire was pre-formulated before the establishment of an empire. That is. the empire was invented before it was actualized. The Greeks, followed by the Romans, read the map of the world from a moral premise. They imagined an empire with Athens as the centre, implying that the lands away from the centre were the locations for barbarians, who were morally inferior and bestial. Such a view of the empire has been called ‘poetic geography’ by Gimabattista Vico, an eighteenth-century philosopher. My point is that the poetic geography was not only created by the Greeks and the Romans in respect of their empires, but the English also had pursued a poetic geography before the English/British Empire took shape. In this pursuit Shakespeare had been used as an agency to further the imperial cause. But Shakespeare had been at best a double-edged agency, because while he was found useful in pushing the imperial agenda he also became the site of resistance for the colonized.
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Published in Fall 2009