SOVEREIGN REALITY: TIME AND NECESSITY IN THE POLITICAL WORLD OF SHAKESPEARE'S MATURE HISTORY PLAYS WITH BIBLIOGRAPHICAL ANALYSIS (PLATO, KINGSHIP, AUGUSTINE, GOVERNMENT, BIBLE)

MONICA JOAN VECCHIO, Fordham University

Abstract

Although little attention has been paid to Shakespeare's political consciousness as reflecting the troubled period of the 1590's, a study of the mature tetralogy shows it to be a masterpiece of political theater, a work specifically designed to scrutinize the important questions of the age. Seen in the light of Renaissance history, Shakespeare's work is one of serious political intention and not one of orthodoxy or chauvinism as it is often made out to be. An evaluation of approximately a century of criticism reveals that insufficient attention has been given to the events of the times. As a result, serious misreadings continue to occur.^ Shakespeare's analysis of kingship draws our special attention to the importance of time as it relates to government. A sovereign must understand time and his role in it in order to rule well. He must appreciate its restrictions on the one hand, and its relationship to eternity on the other. This viewpoint is simultaneously practical and moral, natural and philosophical. A ruler must enact justice through obedience to necessity and respect for tradition, while he remains in harmony with universal law.^ A study of the tetralogy in conjunction with Augustine, the Bible and Plato's works shows that Shakespeare probably drew from these sources. Employing the viewpoints found therein, he underscores the concept of a sovereign's required subjection and obedience to time. He similarly employs analogies to the world of commerce, agriculture, and astronomy.^ A ruler's obedience to time becomes a criterion by which to judge the quality of his leadership. Richard misunderstands and abuses time and fails to govern well. Henry IV has a superior appreciation of time that he passes on to his erring son. Order is gradually restored to England and justice reaffirmed as a result of this deeper understanding.^ Shakespeare, looking seriously at history and clearly at his own age, rejects as unrealistic the attempts of his countrymen to idealize kingship. The mature tetralogy finds its fulfillment in the twentieth century in the questions about government it raises and forces us to consider, just as it did nearly four centuries ago. ^

Subject Area

Literature, English

Recommended Citation

VECCHIO, MONICA JOAN, "SOVEREIGN REALITY: TIME AND NECESSITY IN THE POLITICAL WORLD OF SHAKESPEARE'S MATURE HISTORY PLAYS WITH BIBLIOGRAPHICAL ANALYSIS (PLATO, KINGSHIP, AUGUSTINE, GOVERNMENT, BIBLE)" (1985). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8521400.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8521400

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