SHAKESPEARE'S ENGLISH KINGS: History, Chronicle, and Drama by Peter Saccio

SHAKESPEARE'S ENGLISH KINGS: History, Chronicle, and Drama

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A packed but generally unintimidating examination of the historical background for the ""king"" plays. Saccio reviews events in the pertinent reigns as they appear in three versions: the incomplete findings of modern research, various Tudor chronicles, and the plays themselves. He points out congruences, conflicts, and approximations among the three, illuminating not only cultural variances between 16th and 20th century scholarship but also Shakespeare's use of fact, fiction, and propaganda for dramatic purposes. Certainly many of the plays' omissions and ellipses contradict the findings of modern research. Often, however, the Bard's reading of events was solidly based on the common Tudor ""understanding""--he reflected, for example, the contemporary teleological view of the War of the Roses as the result of long-range dynastic ambition climaxing, by divine intent, in the Utopia of Henry Tudor. Some chronologies in the dramas follow the real sequence of major events (as in Richard II); others are chopped up and rearranged radically (as in Henry VI, Parts I and II). Shakespeare would exploit the profitable monsterhood of Richard II (per Hall, Holinshed, St. Thomas More, etc.) but would supply the uncommon view that King John had no right to his throne. Altogether this is a great help to students of the plays in clearing the air of muddled fact and fiction, and uncovering some cultural underpinnings of Shakespeare's dramatic imagination.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1977
ISBN: 0195123190
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press