Dr Christopher Crosbie

Picture of Dr Christopher Crosbie

Associate Professor


Christopher Crosbie specializes in Shakespeare and other dramatists of the English Renaissance.  Particularly interested in the ways in which classical and early modern philosophies find expression on the popular stage, Dr. Crosbie has published articles on Shakespeare and his contemporaries in journals such as Shakespeare QuarterlyEnglish Literary RenaissanceRenaissance PapersRenascence, and Arthuriana.  He has received the Martin Stevens Award for Best New Essay in Early Drama Studies from the Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society (2015) and the J. Leeds Barroll Dissertation Prize from the Shakespeare Association of America (2008). 

His first book, Revenge Tragedy and Classical Philosophy in the Age of Shakespeare: Shaping Retribution on the Early Modern Stage, examines early modern revenge tragedies against philosophical traditions not commonly associated with them. This wide-ranging study reveals the influence of Aristotelian faculty psychology on The Spanish Tragedy, the Aristotelian ethical mean on Titus Andronicus, Lucretian atomism on Hamlet, Galenic pneumatics on Antonio's Revenge, and Epictetian Stoicism on The Duchess of Malfi.  Through new reception histories for each philosophy, this book examines how these diverse classical theories – each in its own manner concerned with the last waypoint between immateriality and materiality – shape revenge narratives on the stage.  No early modern writer could see the vegetative soul, the ethical mean, the infinitesimally small atom, the ebb and flow of the most rarified pneuma, or the hidden recesses of the Stoic will.  Yet the writers studied in this project treat these concepts as ontological realities that structure the ways their characters think.  Early modern dramatists persistently tether revenge into these ontological frameworks in order to render the final retributive act as fitting – even beyond overt appeals to audience sympathy – within their fictive worlds.  In doing so, Shakespeare and his contemporaries not only provide more substantive ground for retribution than might be found in appeals to personal grievance alone.  They also recuperate the immediacy such otherwise distanced philosophies or theoretical abstractions can hold for the suddenly marginalized or dispossessed.

By discovering within these plays the subtle shaping presence of rich philosophical doctrines – each with a lineage and early modern commentary tradition of its own – this book reveals how, theatrically, the very atmospheres of revenge tragedies work on audiences in more extensive, intellectually-rich, and conditioning ways than previously appreciated.  At the same time, this project also reveals how, as much as revenge dramatists tap into preexisting traditions, they also stretch those traditions to new, often politically or socially radical ends, in effect doing philosophy by testing out the implications of a given theoretical abstraction by placing it within the crucible of extreme circumstances.  

An avid theatergoer, Dr. Crosbie focuses his classes in equal measure on the philosophical contexts and performative possibilities of early modern drama.   

Selected Publications


"Shakespeare, Intention, and the Ethical Force of the Involuntary," The Routledge Companion to Shakespeare and Philosophy, ed. Craig Bourne and Emily Caddick Bourne (New York: Routledge, forthcoming). 

"Refashioning Fable through the Baconian Essay: De sapientia veterum and Mythologies of the Early Modern Natural Philosopher," The Essay: Forms and Transformations, ed. Dorothea Flothow, Sabine Coelsch-Foisner, and Markus Oppolzer (Heidelberg: Universitatsverlag Winter, 2017).

“The State of the Art: Current Critical Approaches to The Revenger’s Tragedy,” The Revenger’s Tragedy: A Critical Reader, ed. Brian Walsh (London: Bloomsbury Arden, 2016), 73-99.

“Publicizing the Science of God: Milton’s Raphael and the Boundaries of Knowledge,” Renascence 67.4 (2015), 239-260.

The Comedy of ErrorsHaecceity, and the Metaphysics of Individuation,” Renaissance Papers 2013, ed. Jim and Joanna Kucinski (Boydell & Brewer, 2014), 101-113.

"The Longleat Manuscript Reconsidered: Shakespeare and the Sword of Lath." English Literary Renaissance 44.2 (2014): 221-240.  (Recipient of the 2015 Martin Stevens Award for Best New Essay in Early Drama Studies from the Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society)

"Francis Bacon and Aristotelian Afterlives." A Companion to British Literature, ed. Robert DeMaria Jr., Heesok Chang, and Samantha Zacher, vol 2. (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014), 231-248.

Oeconomia and the Vegetative Soul: Rethinking Revenge in The Spanish Tragedy.” English Literary Renaissance 38.1 (2008): 3-33. 

“Fixing Moderation: Titus Andronicus and the Aristotelian Determination of Value.” Shakespeare Quarterly 58.2 (2007): 147-173.   

Selected Awards / Distinctions

Martin Stevens Award for Best New Essay in Early Drama Studies, Medieval & Renaissance Drama Society, 2015

Alumni Association Outstanding Teacher Award, 2010-2011

College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Outstanding Teacher Award, 2010-2011

Lonnie and Carol Poole Award for Excellence in Teaching, 2009-2010

Folger Shakespeare Library Short-term Fellowship, 2009-2010

J. Leeds Barroll Dissertation Prize, Shakespeare Association of America, 2008

Selected Courses


ENG 558 Revenge, Reconciliation, and Redemption in Shakespearean Drama
ENG 588 Shakespeare's Monsters: Marvels, Wonders, Villains
ENG 582 Early Modern Revenge Tragedy
ENG 588 Shakespeare Among the Philosophers


ENG 498 Shakespeare's Aristotle
ENG 486 Early Shakespeare: Authorship, Ambition, and Authority
ENG 487 Late Shakespeare: Betrayal and Banishment in Shakespearean Drama
ENG 209 Introduction to Shakespeare: Protean Shakespeares
HON 202 Shakespeare and Philosophy (University Honors Program)
HON 293 Early Modern Revenge Tragedy (University Honors Program) 

Selected Service 

Folger Institute Executive Committee, Folger Shakespeare Library
Folger Liaison, North Carolina State University
Secretary-Treasurer, Southeastern Renaissance Conference
Founder, Shakespeare at State & Friends of Shakespeare, NC State University

Extension and Community Engagement

Interested in supporting Shakespearean performance and study here at NC State? Join Friends of Shakespeare


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  • PhD in English from Rutgers University, 2007