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Drama, at least according to the Aristotelian view, is effective inasmuch as it successfully mirrors real aspects of human behavior. This leads to the hypothesis that successful dramas will portray fictional social networks that have the same properties as those typical of human beings across ages and cultures. We outline a methodology for investigating this hypothesis and use it to examine ten of Shakespeare's plays. The cliques and groups portrayed in the plays correspond closely to those which have been observed in spontaneous human interaction, including in hunter-gatherer societies, and the networks of the plays exhibit "small world" properties of the type which have been observed in many human-made and natural systems.

Original publication




Journal article


Human Nature

Publication Date





397 - 408