The power and rights of the crown in Hamlet and King Lear: 'the king - the king's to blame'

Hadfield, Andrew (2003) The power and rights of the crown in Hamlet and King Lear: 'the king - the king's to blame'. Review of English Studies, 54 (217). pp. 566-586. ISSN 0034-6551

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Much drama written before and after the accession of James I comments on and analyses the issue of hereditary monarchical succession. A comparative analysis of the political comments, themes, and images made throughout Hamlet and King Lear shows how central such concerns were to Shakespeare's dramatic imagination, and how abruptly the political universe changed in England after Elizabeth's death. Hamlet shows a corrupt, beleaguered, and vulnerable nation which can be seen as a representation of the worst elements of England and Scotland combined. The plot can be read as a variation on the foundational republican story of the rape of Lucrece and the banishment of the Tarquins, and the play engages with monarchomach ideas expressed in a treatise such as Vindiciae, Contra Tyrannos, although the play provides no straightforward answer to the questions that it poses. King Lear also shows the consequences of an undesirable succession, but concentrates on what needs to be corrected rather than whether the monarch can be removed. The play can be seen in a tradition of 'mirror for princes' literature, advising and correcting a monarch - or those who were in a position to do this. In contrast, Hamlet suggests that the impending Stuart succession may be a disaster of such magnitude that some might turn to assassination to cure England's woes

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Depositing User: Andrew Hadfield
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 19:45
Last Modified: 04 Jul 2012 11:54
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