Engraved illustration depicting a scene from Shakespeare's  Richard the Third .

Violence in Shakespeare's Works

Violence takes many forms in the works of Shakespeare, including warfare, murder, suicide, rape, and mutilation, and it appears to serve a variety of purposes. As an issue of critical debate, Shakespeare's use of violence has been both attacked and defended by modern analysts. While some scholars study the ways in which Shakespeare's use of violence reflects the attitudes of his time, others focus on the implications of the reaction to violence in Shakespeare's works by modern audiences and critics.

In his review of Shakespeare's use of violence, Jonas Barish ( 1991) identifies several categories into which violent episodes may be divided, including sword play and warfare, sacrificial killings, self-inflicted injuries, sexual violence, and comic violence. Barish argues that unlike...

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