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Renaissance Queenship in William Shakespeare's English History Plays

Chiang, Y.-C.; (2012) Renaissance Queenship in William Shakespeare's English History Plays. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access


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This thesis explores how queens in Shakespeare’s English history plays manipulate virtues, space, and memory to embody a specific demeanour in the contexts of early modern England. In the late 1990s, Jean E. Howard’s and Phyllis Rackin’s Engendering a Nation established a feminist study of Shakespeare’s English history plays, focusing on how women support or undermine patriarchal authorities. Yet analysing women’s words and actions in the light of nationalism, New Historicism, and women’s traditional roles as daughters, wives, and mothers within feminism restricts potential readings of women in early modern English literature. This thesis then studies the most powerful women, the queens, to see how they establish themselves as models or counterexamples for women. It first distinguishes between queens regnant, regent, and consort, and investigates the relationship between queenship and kingship. It then traces the three stages of the queens’ ‘career’: the pursuit, practice, and residue of queenship. The ‘pursuit’ analyses how queens-to-be implement their virtues in accepting and rejecting kings’ favours. The queenly virtues parallel and contrast to Machiavelli’s idea of ‘virtú’ and Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of ‘cultural capital’. Entitled to exceptional royal status, queens transgress the boundaries of gender and space divisions, while their subversive behaviours are often endorsed by patriarchs. Finally, when queens are widowed, deposed, or divorced, they engage themselves in writing histories; they become monuments presenting alternative memories and insubordinate voices against patriarchal grand narratives. Shakespeare’s queens create iconographical paradigms, which are so recognisable and iconic that their queenship is reiteratively reproduced and appropriated in arts and real practices of later periods. Using early modern arguments and modern theories, this thesis provides a synthesised reading of queens in Shakespeare’s English histories, shedding new light on the position of women in early modern England.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Renaissance Queenship in William Shakespeare's English History Plays
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of English Lang and Literature
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1344188
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