The best conception of love, Marcus Nordlund contends, and hence the best framework for its literary analysis, must be a fusion of evolutionary, cultural, and historical explanation. It is within just such a bio-cultural nexus that Nordlund explores Shakespeare’s treatment of different forms of love. His approach leads to a valuable new perspective on Shakespearean love and, more broadly, on the interaction between our common humanity and our historical contingency as they are reflected, recast, transformed, or even suppressed in literary works.
After addressing critical issues about love, biology, and culture raised by his method, Nordlund considers four specific forms of love in seven of Shakespeare’s plays. Examining the vicissitudes of parental love in Titus Andronicus and Coriolanus, he argues that Shakespeare makes a sustained inquiry into the impact of culture and society upon the natural human affections. King Lear offers insight into the conflicted relationship between love and duty. In two problem plays about romantic love, Troilus and Cressida and All’s Well that Ends Well, the tension between individual idiosyncrasies and social consensus becomes especially salient. And finally, in Othello and The Winter’s Tale, Nordlund asks what Shakespeare can tell us about the dark avatar of jealousy.