Leadership in Milton’s Paradise Lost, Cavendish’s Blazing World, and Shakespeare’s Othello and Hamlet
Critical thinkers are the strongest people in the world—not only are they able to form their own opinions, but these individuals are also versatile enough to listen to their counsel for the best advice. They have learned when to be flexible and when to be stubborn—and they’ve realized who’s a snake in the grass and who deserves paramount respect. To live happily ever after, or even just to survive, a person must learn from the best. Leaders are no exception to the rule. Whether they come from a royal family, are spontaneously appointed, or are the only ones around and therefore lead by default, leaders must detect and discern the truth, using all of the empirical experience and intuitive senses that mankind has had bestowed upon them. In addition to all their duties, a good leader must be a critical thinker. Simply put, a leader’s ability to listen to another opinion speaks volumes about their character. In John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Margaret Cavendish’s Blazing World, and William Shakespeare’s tragedies of Othello and Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, there are a tremendous variety of leaders and counselors who all have different circumstances, yet all may be analyzed through twos common themes: The measures of innocence verses experience and passion verses reason in leadership positions. Some of the leaders that will be in focus don’t always play the part. Some aren’t always so innocent. But if we look at how characters with leadership roles treat their counsel—whether those advisors are family, friends, lovers or superiors—we will not simply learn more about the literature we study, but we may apply what we learn to our own quite real and very 21st century universe.
I. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark—“Who do I have?”
To begin, let’s examine with the psychological meltdown of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, which turned into one of the most famous disasters known to the world. As we learn quickly enough with this play, King Hamlet was murdered by his own brother Claudius, who then took over the throne and married young Hamlet’s mother, who was previously married to King Hamlet. Certainly, this is a tragedy. But all of this information is made known to the reader before the end of the first act. By Shakespearean standards, that alone is no tragedy at all. Who would recognize a one-act blurb as one of the greatest plays ever written? The answer of course, is no one. The real tragedy of Hamlet is the prince’s inability to cope with disaster, and the fact that he refuses to let anyone have a look inside of his tortured soul is what leads to a catastrophe without any winners. In a book entitled The New Machiavelli: The Art of Politics in Business, Alistair McAlpine takes a look at Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince and applies its advice and strategies to business leaders in today’s world. What McAlpine says about the quality of loyalty...