Without exaggeration, Machiavelli’s The Prince (1513) initiates the modern study of politics as a science of the real–not how things ought to be, but how things are.
The most Machiavellian character in Shakespeare is the duke in Measure for Measure, a dark comedy. Taking a lesson from Machiavelli, the lenient duke (whose ability to rule has been compromised by accounts of his own vicious living) retires to a monastery, turning his power over to a man named Angelo, who imposes a strict new regime on the new city. For one family, the new regime is essentially a death sentence. Young Claudio is sentenced to death for unchaste conduct. His sister, Isabella, who is training to become a nun, sets out to save his life. Can she rescue her brother while keeping her virtue intact? Or must she resort to using the teachings of the wily Florentine as well? Is it possible to be an effective leader without resorting to morally questionable practices?
In this class, we’ll read (and act out) much of Machiavelli’s Prince and Shakespeare’s Measure and explore the questions these two works of poetry and politics raise about power, ethics, and virtue. We’ll also keep a close eye on how both works use (and potentially abuse) the Hebrew Bible to achieve their ends.
- Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince
- William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
Meet the Instructor
St. John's College
Louis Petrich received his master’s degree in Social Thought from the University of Chicago in 1986. He worked as a dramaturg, assistant director, and actor at the Court Theater in Chicago in the late 1980s, and at the Folger Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C., in the early 1990s. In 1990, he received his first Fulbright Scholar Award to teach American literature at the Alexandru I. Cuza University in Iasi, Romania. This was followed by service in the United States Peace Corps as a teacher of English teachers at Masaryk University in Brno, Czechoslovakia (where he met his wife). Afterwards, he taught American studies through the Civic Education Project to university students in Presov, Slovakia; Iasi, Romania; and Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
He received a second Fulbright Scholar Award to teach American studies at Kyrgyz State National University, also in Bishkek, where he founded the American Studies Resources and Training Center. He returned to the United States in 2002 to begin a very different academic career as a Tutor at St. John’s College in Annapolis. He remains there to this day, teaching the great books across the liberal arts curriculum. He has published articles on Shakespeare, Chekhov, Tocqueville, and liberal education. He also publishes poetry. He took a year’s leave of absence from St. John’s in 2010 to teach mathematics and biology to Arab and Kurdish students at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani. He has two children, ages 22 and 15, and in his spare time he photographs marine life on the oceanic reefs of the world. He is honored to return to the Tikvah Institute in 2020, for his third consecutive summer on this distinguished faculty.
Kate Havard Rozansky