This chapter investigates, for the first time, Nietzsche’s relation to Shakespeare in its entire development from the juvenilia to his final utterances in the ‘madness letters’. Hamlet makes a brief but significant appearance in The Birth of Tragedy, where Nietzsche reverses the conventional ‘romantic’ interpretation of the character. In his ‘pessimism of strength’, Nietzsche’s Hamlet resembles the Dionysian Greeks and becomes a pivotal figure in Nietzsche’s scheme of history as well as a life-long figure of identification. No less than Hamlet, Julius Caesar occupied Nietzsche throughout his life. The epitome of ‘higher men’, he is cited whenever Nietzsche needs an example of his aristocratic ethos of strength, the benchmark of the ‘great politics’ (große Politik) which he pits against what he sees as the liberalist decadence of his own time.
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