top of page


Whoever would have thought that William Shakespeare could help us prevent  murder in the twenty-first century?”

Shakespeare has been dubbed the greatest psychologist of all time. This book seeks to prove that statement by comparing the playwright’s fictional characters with real-life examples of violent individuals, from criminals to political actors. For Gilligan and Richards, the propensity to kill others, even (or especially) when it results in the killer’s own death, is the most serious threat to the continued survival of humanity. In this volume, the authors show how humiliated men, with their desire for retribution and revenge, apocalyptic violence and political religions, justify and commit violence, and how love and restorative justice can prevent violence.


Although our destructive power is far greater than anything that existed in his day, Shakespeare has much to teach us about the psychological and cultural roots of all violence. In this book, the authors tell what Shakespeare shows, through the stories of his characters: what causes violence and what prevents it.  MORE 

It is impossible to overestimate the importance of this book. ” —Terri Apter, psychologist and author. 

Authored by clinical psychiatrist James Gillgan and law professor David Richards. Published by Cambridge University Press.




James Gilligan

James Gilligan is an American psychiatrist who has specialized in studying the causes and prevention of violence.  For 35 years he taught at the Harvard Medical School, where he became Director of the Institute of Law and Psychiatry. He has served as a consultant on the causes and prevention of violence to President Clinton, Tony Blair and the Law Lords of the House of Lords. More


William Shakespeare


William Shakespeare was an English playwright, poet and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon".


His plays are perhaps his most enduring legacy, but his poems also remain popular to this day. More


David A.J. Richards 


David A.J. Richards is currently Edwin D. Webb Professor of Law at NYU, where he has taught constitutional law and criminal law for 35 years. He is the author of over twenty book on human rights and the basic constitutional rights of American constitutionalism as well as studies of nonviolence, Verdi’s operas, and mutual love as the key to resisting injustice. More


“It is impossible to overestimate the importance of this book.  James Gilligan and David Richards take us into the heart of human aggression, explaining the roots of 'evil deeds' that provide far more illumination than Freud's account of instinct or evolutionary accounts of dominance.  Through a creative probing of Shakespeare's genius, the authors link shared human needs to those acts of horror we would like to frame as 'inhuman' or 'alien.' Holding a Mirror Up to Nature takes us beyond Brene Brown's The Power of Vulnerability and Stephen Greenblatt's Tyrant to reveal the possibility of human life beyond violence.”

- Terri Apter is a writer, a psychologist, and former senior tutor at Newnham College, Cambridge.

Her books on family dynamics, identity and relationships have received international acclaim. Altered Loves: Mothers and Daughters During Adolescence was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. 



JOSH HAWLEY image from AP_21006849368171.jpeg
A Feminism for Men
A feminism for men shows a solution that patriarchy hides as unmanly. 

Let's keep the conversation going. Sign up for upcoming events and updates.
We look forward to hearing from you. 

Thanks for submitting!

  • Black Facebook Icon
  • Black Twitter Icon
  • Instagram
bottom of page