‘How can you say to me I am a King?’: New Historicism and its (Re)interpretations of the Design of Kingly Figures in Shakespeare’s History Plays
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The 1980’s saw the emergence of New Historicist criticism, particularly through Stephen Greenblatt’s work. Its legacy remains influential, particularly on Shakespearean Studies. I wish to outline New Historicist methodological insights, comment on some of its criticisms and provide analytical comments on the changing approach to historical plays, asking “What has New Historicism brought into our understanding of historical plays and the way(s) of designing kingly power?” Examining Shakespeare’s second tetralogy, I will review Greenblatt’s contention that these plays largely focus on kingly power and its relationship to “subversion” and “containment”. I intend to focus on aspects of the plays that I believe have not received enough attention through New Historicism; particularly the design of the kingly figures.