Lesel Dawson, Katharine Craik (Editor)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


Scholars have debated the extent to which shame is a negative, repressive emotion which reinforces conservative class and gender roles and hierarchies, or a beneficial one that engenders an enriched understanding of the self and the world, radically reorienting the self in a manner that is spiritually and ontologically enlightening. Early modern literary texts testify to shame’s complex and at times contradictory nature: portrayed as a vital component of one’s ethical well-being, it also frequently eclipses moral judgement and triggers violent bloodshed. In this chapter, I explore shame’s capacity to act as both a repressive force and as an emotion that prompts self-knowledge in early modern texts, paying particular attention to Coriolanus (1608) and the anonymously-published The Lover's Complaint (1609). I argue that, for Coriolanus, shame engenders a moment of insight in which he accepts an externalized version of himself, but for the abandoned woman in The Lover's Complaint shame highlights the gap between early modern ethical discourses and her own sexual and emotional experiences.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationShakespeare and Emotion
EditorsKatharine Craik
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages253
ISBN (Electronic)9781108235952, 9781108245159
ISBN (Print)9781108416160
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2019


  • Shakesepeare
  • Emotion
  • Shame
  • Sympathy
  • Coriolanus
  • A Lover’s Complaint
  • Leo Bersani
  • Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick
  • Gail Kern Paster
  • Narcissism
  • Dan Zahavi
  • Gender


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