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Book Sections Year : 2019

Providence and Divine Right in the English Histories

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Abstract

This chapter studies the plays that contain the most allusions to religion in the whole of the Shakespearean corpus: the ten or so English history plays encompassing the reigns of six medieval English monarchs, with the exception of Henry VIII, which partly covers that of the second Tudor king. As a genre, the history play invites conjectures about time and destiny. In these plays Shakespeare anatomised rulers’ so-called special relationship to Providence and to the divine. His potentates appeal differently to their ‘divine rights’, and the staging of their verbal and political strategies was often a way for the dramatist to instil a tragic and poetic dimension into his histories. He also exposes bigoted and manipulative uses of divine Providence. The playwright’s exploration of divine right is circumspect and conscious of how political discourse can feed on religion to create its mystique or mysticism. Shakespeare’s stages of history show us that the establishment of kingship on any type of sacred authority is a potential source of conflict. His drama does not transgress or adhere to an orthodox divine theory of sovereignty. It seeks to establish a dialogue between an ideologically conflicted past and a religiously and politically troubled present.
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hal-03762455 , version 1 (27-08-2022)

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Attribution - NonCommercial - CC BY 4.0

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Jean-Christophe Mayer. Providence and Divine Right in the English Histories. Hamlin, Hannibal. The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Religion, Cambridge University Press, 2019, Cambridge Companions to Literature and Classics, 9781316779224. ⟨10.1017/9781316779224.010⟩. ⟨hal-03762455⟩
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