The Structural Role of France in Shakespeare's First and Second Historical Tetralogies

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Abstract:

An outline account of the structure of the plays Henry VI (I-III) and Richard III, considered as a meaningful sequence wherein the relationship between ‘England’ and ‘France’ has a structural role. The account is later extended to cover the so-called ‘second tetralogy’ from Richard II to Henry V. The discussion moves from England's need for France to England's self-sufficiency and from French conquests achieved by an ideal king of a unified England to the danger presented by a foreign French conqueror to an England that is self-wounded, following the argument that the structure of a ‘desire’, an ‘anxiety’ bearing the name of France informs the plays. Shakespeare wrote in a sequence from fantasy to reality, from Henry VI to Henry V.

Keywords: England; France; Shakespeare, William (historical plays); Theatre

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1477-4658.00192

Publication date: December 1, 1995

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