"Of Human Kindness" by Paula Marantz Cohen

Of Human Kindness What Shakespeare Teaches Us About Empathy Paula Marantz Cohen

Publication date:
23 Mar 2021
Yale University Press
176 pages: 216 x 140mm

While exploring Shakespeare’s plays with her students, Paula Marantz Cohen discovered that teaching and discussing his plays unlocked a surprising sense of compassion in the classroom. In this short and illuminating book, she shows how Shakespeare’s genius lay with his ability to arouse empathy, even when his characters exist in alien contexts and behave in reprehensible ways.
Cohen takes her readers through a selection of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, including Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and The Merchant of Venice, to demonstrate the ways in which Shakespeare thought deeply and clearly about how we treat “the other.” Cohen argues that only through close reading of Shakespeare can we fully appreciate his empathetic response to race, class, gender, and age. Wise, eloquent, and thoughtful, this book is a forceful argument for literature’s power to champion what is best in us.

Paula Marantz Cohen is the Dean of the Pennoni Honors College and Distinguished Professor of English at Drexel University, as well as host of the television interview show The Civil Discourse. She lives in Philadelphia.

Of Human Kindness is a dazzling book, tight in its prose, expansive in wisdom. From teaching Shakespeare, Paula Marantz Cohen learned the Bard's amazing ability to reach us in our humanity.”—David Blight, Yale University

"Paula Marantz Cohen approaches Shakespeare as a passionately close reader, concentrating less on the dramatic spectacle of the plays than their poetic richness and depth. The result is a marvellously perceptive and stimulating primer on the essential humanity, and humaneness, of this supreme literary artist."—John Banville, author of The Sea

"Thoughtful, astute, invitingly readable—and uncommonly timely. Especially now that so many younger readers are casting suspicious glances at Shakespeare, Of Human Kindness shows with mind-changing clarity why his work has never been more relevant to our common problems."—Terry Teachout, drama critic, The Wall Street Journal