By Shakespeare, William; Joughin, John J.; Shakespeare, William
Philosophical Shakespeares specializes in and encourages the turning out to be dissolution of barriers among literature and philosophy. The method is interdisciplinary and comprises problem-centred readings of specific plays.
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This work can be extremely helpful in showing exactly what ordinary readers do when they participate in the institution of making-believe. Approaching Shakespeare’s plays by way of the attitude of make-believe won’t reveal what happened to Lady Macbeth’s child. But it can help show what interests motivate this question and why it is important. I Lady Macbeth and her children Well, how many children did Lady Macbeth have? The question is not completely adventitious. At the very beginning of the play, Lady Macbeth makes explicit and quite vivid reference not only to the existence of a child, but to the very intimate experience of breast-feeding: HOW MANY CHILDREN DID SHE HAVE?
It’s not, after all, like asking what Duncan’s blood type was, or whether Banquo ever had the measles. Lady Macbeth makes explicit reference to her experience of motherhood. Children are thematically important to the play’s structure. Finally, there is the question of Macbeth’s heirs. It seems entirely reasonable to raise questions about the Macbeth children, even if Shakespeare’s play does not provide any satisfactory answers. Romeo and Juliet are teenagers who fall in love. Hamlet can’t make up his mind.
One way to specify the background knowledge that can be most usefully deployed in relation to the explicit content of a literary work is to reconstruct the ‘collective belief worlds of the community of origin’ (p. 273). This proposal results in Analysis 2: A sentence of the form ‘In the fiction f, φ’ is non-vacuously true iff, whenever w is one of the collective belief worlds of the community of origin of f, then some world where f is told as known fact and φ is true differs less from the world w, on balance, than does any world where f is told as known fact and φ is not true.