The King, the Prince, and Shakespeare: Competing for Control of the Stuart Court Stage

2020-06-29T19:38:06Z (GMT) by Gabriel R Lonsberry
When, each holiday season, William Shakespeare’s newest plays were presented for King James I of England and his court, they shared the stage with propagandistic performances and ceremonies intended to glorify the monarch and legitimate his political ideals. Between 1608 and 1613, however, the King’s son, Prince Henry Frederick, sought to use the court stage to advance his own, oppositional ideology. By examining the entertainments through which James and Henry openly competed to control this crucial mythmaking mechanism, the present investigation recreates the increasingly unstable conditions surrounding and transforming each of Shakespeare’s last plays as they were first performed at court. I demonstrate that, once read in their original courtly contexts, these plays speak directly to each stage of that escalating rivalry and interrogate the power of ceremonial display, the relationship between fiction and statecraft, and the destabilization of monarchically imposed meaning, just as they would have then.