Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: March ::
Re: Shakespearean Historiography; King John
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0278  Monday, 30 March 1998.

[1]     From:   Chris Warley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Saturday, 28 Mar 98 12:41:13 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0272 Q: Shakespearean Historiography

[2]     From:   Ed Taft <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Saturday, 28 Mar 1998 16:33:36 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   SHK 9.0272 Shakespearean Historiography

[3]     From:   Helen Ostovich <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Saturday, 28 Mar 1998 12:42:42 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0276  Q: King John

[4]     From:   Ed Taft <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Sunday, 29 Mar 1998 14:31:48 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   SHK 9.0276  King John

[5]     From:   Drew Whitehead <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 30 Mar 1998 10:08:14 +1000 (GMT+1000)
        Subj:   Re: Shakespearean Historiography


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Warley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Saturday, 28 Mar 98 12:41:13 EST
Subject: 9.0272 Q: Shakespearean Historiography
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0272 Q: Shakespearean Historiography

Dear Michael Ullyot:

A wonderful general introduction to medieval English history directed
specifically at readers of Shakespeare is Peter Saccio's *Shakespeare's
English Kings (Oxford, 1977).  On the question of the relation of
"accuracy" to psychology, I'd strongly recommend Richard Helgerson's
provocative chapter "Staging Exclusion" in *Forms of Nationhood*.

Best,
Chris Warley

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Taft <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Saturday, 28 Mar 1998 16:33:36 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Shakespearean Historiography
Comment:        SHK 9.0272 Shakespearean Historiography

Michael Ullyot asks if there are studies that consider Shakespeare's
histories as medieval historiography, that is, as serious studies of
medieval history. I know of two: Ernst H. Kantorowicz,*The King's Two
Bodies: A Study in Medieval Political Theology,* Princeton, 1957, and
H.A. Kelly, *Divine Providence in the England of Shakespeare's
Histories,* Cambridge, Mass, 1970. The former argues that medieval
political thought is reflected in Shakespeare's histories, especially in
the notions of kingship present in the plays. The latter traces concepts
of providence from medieval times to Shakespeare's and suggests that the
histories analyze critically the development of ideas about providence.

As for Mike's question about historical accuracy, I think that
Shakespeare was often as accurate as he could be, seemingly writing some
parts of the histories with Holinshed and Hall beside him to refer to.
But I would suggest that his chief concern was to try to hold up a
mirror to the complexity of the political system around him, one which
had its origins in the late middle ages, and one that was on the very
brink of democracy just as he wrote.
[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Helen Ostovich <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Saturday, 28 Mar 1998 12:42:42 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 9.0276  Q: King John
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0276  Q: King John

The question about King John and the Magna Carta connects with my
students' question about _Henry VIII_ and the shift from Roman Catholic
to Anglican church.  Shakespeare does not explain the changeover:
Wolsey falls, and Cranmer rises, and the ecclesiastical differences
don't seem to get aired.  In this case, I assume that early audiences
got the point through the action and spectacle, and didn't require
further explanation.  The textual silence on that point is just another
political silence in a play full of odd silences.  But whether that
applies to the Magna Carta in _King John_, I don't know.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Taft <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Sunday, 29 Mar 1998 14:31:48 -0500 (EST)
Subject: King John
Comment:        SHK 9.0276  King John

Michael Ullyot inquires why Shakespeare skipped the two best-known
episodes in John's reign: the Magna Carta and Robin Hood. As for the
Magna Carta, I think that its importance was not well recognized until
the early 17th century, when historians were preoccupied with ways to
constitutionally limit the powers of monarchs. Shakespeare, on the other
hand, was in part concerned with the problem of what to do with a weak
king, like the boy Arthur. As for Robin Hood, we know that Shakespeare
knew the legend and uses it elsewhere, but why he choose not to use it
in King John is a mystery. Certainly, it would provide at least one
character whose actions are not driven by "commodity!"  Actually, the
Bastard, Faulconbridge, is a kind of outsider who is concerned with
righting wrongs. Although he is, finally, on the side of the
establish-ment and does not live in the forest, I wonder if Shakespeare
had old Robin Hood in mind as one (of many) sources for Faulconbridge?

Yours,
Ed Taft

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Drew Whitehead <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 30 Mar 1998 10:08:14 +1000 (GMT+1000)
Subject:        Re: Shakespearean Historiography

Michael Ullyot asks about S. historiography.  I know that this isn't
exactly what you have asked for but Phyllis Rackin's Stages of History
provides a wonderful, insightful look at the history plays, and does
treat them not just as products of the Chronicles.  Her book convinced
me to think of the history plays in a way that I have never done so
before (and that is always a good recommendation), and she proposes that
in writing the plays the way he did, in the order that he did,
Shakespeare was actually questioning the very nature of historiography.

As far as the plays themselves are concerned, I have never really been
bothered, or concerned, by the historical accuracy of the plays.  They
are fascinating pieces of work and the fact that they are "based on
fact" in on way hinders of even effects my enjoyment of them, in much
the same way that a movie like "Titanic" is only "based on fact" and we
can enjoy it.  In reality any movie, like any play is a "lie", a piece
of fiction and "based on fact" should never be confused with the "truth"

Drew Whitehead
 

Other Messages In This Thread

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.