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Shakespeare the political man: The second tetralogy and its historical moment

Hyo Sik Hwang, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


My concern in this dissertation is with Shakespeare the political man, the actual man who lived the actual historical time as reflected primarily in Richard II, 1 & 2 Henry IV, and Henry V. I discuss how Shakespeare maneuvered in the arena of Tudor politics by means of drama, addressing a variety of political issues, topics, events in the 1590s when he wrote the second tetralogy. Keeping a distance from theory-based criticism, I have tried to be as empirical as possible, locating Shakespeare firmly in his historical time. During the last twenty years historicism dominated Anglo-American literary criticism. Though my study of Shakespeare has been affected by the recent trends in criticism, the method I take for my dissertation differs from the theory-based criticism. My dissertation has seven chapters. In Chapter One, “Shakespeare and Tudor Political Idea/Practice,” I discuss Shakespeare's undermining of Tudor absolutism and his endorsement of the legal rule in the immediate context of Tudor politics. Chapter Two, “The Deposition of Richard II and Shakespeare's Use of History,” and Chapter Three, “The Oldcastle Controversy and Shakespeare's Use of History,” are source studies in which I explore how Shakespeare rewrites historical materials in a way to engage with the contemporary political issues. Chapter Four, “Shakespeare and History” investigates Shakespeare's consciousness of the contemporary history writing as represented in the second tetralogy. Chapter Five, “Shakespeare and War,” examines Shakespeare's discussion of war in the late 1590s when militarism was shifting into pacifism. Chapter Six, “Shakespeare and Political Censorship” discusses how the difference between the Folio and Quarto versions of the plays reflects Shakespeare's negotiation with the need for political censorship. Finally, in Chapter Seven, “Shakespeare and the English Reformation,” I explore Shakespeare's compromise between the old and new religions as an endeavor to build up foundation of compromise that eventually survives in England after the Restoration of 1660. Throughout the above discussion, my concern consistently stays with Shakespeare the political man who was shaped by and shaped a variety of socio-political issues, while living his historical moment to the full extent.

Subject Area

British and Irish literature|Theater|Biographies

Recommended Citation

Hwang, Hyo Sik, "Shakespeare the political man: The second tetralogy and its historical moment" (2000). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9976997.