Questions of truth, untruth, representation and deception were pivotal to sixteenth and seventeenth century thought. Be it Machiavelli, More or Montaigne, writers and philosophers struggled with questions of lying and truth-telling, and how truth is constructed and performed. But what view did Shakespeare subscribe to? What notions of falsehood, and, axiomatically, of truth, emerge from a reading of his works?
This collection of essays from scholars such as Stuart Sillars, Coppélia Kahn, Supriya Chaudhuri, Bijoy Boruah, R. W. Desai, Gert Hofmann and Shormishtha Panja explores the many facets of lies, deception, truth and half-truth that feature so prominently in well-known plays such as Hamlet, King Lear, Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night’s Dream and inShakespeare’s Sonnets and poems.
From philosophy to physiognomy, from fictionality to reality, the essays are as varied as revealing. While the book explores the subversive potential of speech in the context of gender and class in Othello, there is also an analysis of ‘The Phoenix and the Turtle,’ one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known works. From examining visages of truth and deception in Hamlet, drawing on early modern discourses of face-reading, to reading Shakespeare in light of Nietzschean truth and falsehood and theories of mimesis and verisimilitude—these essays analyse how complex and textured Shakespeare’s engagement with lying is. In addition, the essayists pull into their orbit writers as varied as Plato, St. Augustine, Erasmus, Castiglione, and Franz Kafka.
Enlightening for the student and scholar alike, Shakespeare and the Art of Lying examines Shakespeare’s words from a hitherto unexplored angle, and raises new questions about the art of representation and dissimulation, and the rhetorical practices of truth and falsehood.
Shormishtha Panja is Professor, Department of English, University of Delhi, and President, Shakespeare Society of India.
Introduction Shormishtha Panja
Notes on Contributors Index
‘… this fascinating volume tease[s] out the complex array of connections between “lying” and “truth” in Shakespeare's writing. The two terms emerge here not as straightforward binary opposites, but as shifting, mutually implicated nodes within larger webs of religious, political, and philosophical discourse. To “lie like the truth” is not just a dark art practised by the Witches of Macbeth; it is a pervasive skill in early modern English cultural production, from the sprezzatura of the courtier and the rhetoric of the grammar schoolboy to the fabulation of the poet and the imposture of the actor. With these eleven essays, Shakespeare's plays and poems emerge as laboratories within which the art of ‘lying like the truth’ is repeatedly scrutinised, tested, unravelled, and re-assembled.’
Jonathan Gil Harris, Professor of English, George Washington University, USA, and Associate Editor, Shakespeare Quarterly
‘This outstanding collection … from an international group of scholars is admirable for delivering both focus and range. On the one hand, it is tightly and rigorously organised around the theme of lying, dissimulation, and ‘lying like truth’ in Shakespeare, so that readers will experience the pleasure of working through a problem. At the same time, extending its reach to other early modern writers such as Montaigne, Machiavelli, and Castiglione, it explores the issue of “lying” in relationship to physiognomy, skepticism, gender, ethics, politics, painting, poststructuralism, and literary theory.’
Robert Henke, Professor of Drama and Comparative Literature, Washington University, USA