‘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





New Historicism, Shakespeare history plays, power, disguise, estrangement, ritualism


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.


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Author Biography

James Dale, University of Warsaw, Poland

James Dale has been teaching English in Poland since 2005. Currently a PhD student and recently a lecturer at the University of Warsaw, he holds an MA in English Literature from Warwick University in England. He also holds the Cambridge DELTA in teaching English as a Foreign Language and is an oral examiner for Cambridge English Assessment. For his doctoral research, he is investigating the concept of disguise in Shakespeare’s plays, focusing on the implications of disguise for the understanding of the psychological, political and social dimension of the plays. https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6896-205X


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How to Cite

Dale, J. (2021). ‘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. Multicultural Shakespeare: Translation, Appropriation and Performance, 23(38), 143–158. https://doi.org/10.18778/2083-8530.23.09