Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Comparative Literature

Committee Chair

Charles Ross

Committee Co-Chair

Sandor Goodhart

Committee Member 1

Arkady Plotnitsky

Committee Member 2

Thomas F. Broden


From the Pre-Platonic Greek culture to the Renaissance, history witnesses the shift from the care of the self, to a renunciation of self, and back to an articulated concern for the self. These changes in how people understood their identity culminate in Shakespeare’s tragedies. It is the purpose of my project to investigate and extend beyond the current thinking about Shakespeare and philosophy. Current scholarship tends to agree with Stanley Cavell’s Disowning Knowledge, which sets Shakespeare’s work in a climate of skepticism. My work argues that a more positive account of moral philosophy better explains the nature of the self in Shakespeare's tragedies. In Macbeth, Othello, and Hamlet, Shakespeare presents the trajectories about how the tragic heroes lose themselves by avoiding respectively the questions about "what one is," "who one is," and "what manner of man one should be." In King Lear, however, the hope of redemption is finally found, and the possibility of redeeming oneself lies in one's ethical relation with others.