David Mytton

Book Review (4/5) – Tyrant: Shakespeare on Power (Stephen Greenblatt)

Published (updated: ) in Book Reviews. Tags: .

Originally published on Goodreads.

Reading this in 2019 is very relevant. Although it covers several different examples of tyranny from Lear to Macbeth, there are clear parallels between Richard III and Trump. Although no modern-day examples are cited, I have no doubt that Greenblatt had the same thing in mind when he wrote such descriptions as:

RICHARD’S VILLAINY IS readily apparent to almost everyone. There is no deep secret about his cynicism, cruelty, and treacherousness, no glimpse of anything redeemable in him, and no reason to believe that he could ever govern the country effectively.


Another group is composed of those who do not quite forget that Richard is a miserable piece of work but who nonetheless trust that everything will continue in a normal way. They persuade themselves that there will always be enough adults in the room, as it were, to ensure that promises will be kept, alliances honored, and core institutions respected. Richard is so obviously and grotesquely unqualified for the supreme position of power that they dismiss him from their minds. 

As a result, this book is probably one of the more interesting books about Trump without it actually being about him.