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Unamuno's Late Reading of Shakespeare: Civil War and Folly

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This article seeks to answer two questions. Firstly, why did Miguel de Unamuno support the Nationlist coup that started the Spanish Civil War? Secondly, how can the re-reading of Shakespeare that he undertook in his final months of life help us to understand his thinking at that time? Based on archival research carried out in the Casa-Museo Unamuno in Salamanca, this article traces the presence of Shakespearean references in Unamuno's final writings—unpublished journalist articles, letters and most importantly El resentimiento trágico de la vida. Through comparisons between the annotations on Unamuno's personal copies of Shakespeare's plays and the references to the bard in his final writings, the article builds a picture of how Unamuno's understanding of the causes of the Civil War were informed by his reflections on Shakespeare's drama. In particular, Unamuno read the King Henry VI plays, as well as King Richard II and King Richard III, plays about fratricidal struggles for power, good governance and atavistic hatred. Unamuno's reading of King Lear and The Tempest, plays in part about old men who rue their failure to wield power judiciously, evidently also provoked reflections on his own role as a public intellectual and contributor to contemporary debate.
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Keywords: Casa-Museo Unamuno; El resentimiento trágico de la vida; King Henry VI; King Lear; King Richard II; King Richard III; Miguel de Unamuno; Shakespeare; Spanish Civil War; The Tempest

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University College London,

Publication date: September 1, 2013

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