What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close
With rendition switcher

Transcript

Kenji Yoshino: Welcome to “How to Think like Shakespeare: An Examination of Shakespeare across Disciplines”. I'm here with Jim Shapiro and Carol Gilligan and right now we are going to be talking about Shakespeare retold. There's now an entirely separate cannon of retellings of Shakespeare. We have plays, films, novels, even digital media like Shakespalin or Facebook Hamlet.

I got the call of a lifetime the other day from a federal appellate judge in D.C and he said, I'm doing the Shakespeare moot court on the trial of Agincourt. The questions were 'Did Henry V commit war crimes either in invading France or in killing the prisoners of war?' And my answer was yes and yes to both questions.

Jim Shapiro: And did the rest of the panel of lawyers and judges agree with you?

Kenji Yoshino: Actually it was yes. I mean there was a split, but the majority went with yes and yes with my answers, and, I mean, there were both liberal and conservative judges and I'm not really so focused on the outcome, but rather on the quality of the conversation that there was a kind of suppleness to it because they were talking about Shakespeare. So obviously we’re talking did George W. Bush commit war crimes in invading Iraq and Afghanistan. Is the treatment of the detainees violating Geneva Conventions? If you actually try and have that conversation where everybody has a dog in the fight there is always blood on the floor, but there is something about refracting exactly the same question through Shakespeare where people are much more willing to concede points, much more willing to be I think supple is the word I keep coming back to in the way that they converse with each other and it ended up being a much more humane conversation.

Jim Shapiro: Did anybody ask why we still love Henry V even though we know he committed war crimes?

Kenji Yoshino: That question to my memory did not come up, but what I did come away from the exercise thinking about was actually George W. Bush was very similar to Henry V. It’s just he didn’t win his Agincourt, so if he had won his Agincourt he would have had all the forms of authority that Shakespeare gave to Henry V I think foreshadowing [Max] Weber in this because Weber says that there is futile authority, charismatic authority and legal authority and Henry V is a perfect storm of all forms of authority. So too is George W. Bush when he was standing on the rubble of 9/11, so that’s why people compare Henry V to George W. Bush so often, but he didn’t win his Agincourt so the judgment of history is against him, so my take on this is actually less that we should make the consistency favor George W. Bush than we should make it disfavor Henry V.

Jim Shapiro: And for me what is interesting is that we know Henry V acts criminally, not just to the French prisoners, but to his own men and yet we’re made to feel his charisma and love and admire him at the end of this play, which I hate that feeling that wells up of admiration for him because he is as Machiavellian as anybody in Shakespeare, but Shakespeare nudges us into that uncomfortable space where we’re supposed to applaud him.

Kenji Yoshino: Right and that’s his inheritance from Falstaff I think, that kind of Teflon coating.

Jim Shapiro: Well, the final scene with Catherine is not a pleasant scene.

Carol Gilligan: It’s a rape scene.

Jim Shapiro: Exactly, what’s yours is mine.

Carol Gilligan: That’s it, and she has no voice.

Jim Shapiro: And she doesn’t even get to speak her own language.

Carol Gilligan: Yeah, exactly.

Jim Shapiro: That’s it.

Carol Gilligan: That’s it…. Is he showing us something about this kind of heroism and what happens to a man who has to be really rested from his friendship with Falstaff and cast into this role? I mean in some ways you could also talk about Obama.

Kenji Yoshino: I'm reminded of a line from Emma where it’s a visit perfect and **** much too short. I feel like each one of these segments could go on for hours.

Thank you so much for you insights, but to see more of this conversation please visit BigThink.com for our Shakespeare series.


 

Was Henry V a War Criminal?

Newsletter: Share: