Propping up the King's Two Bodies in Richard II

Ema Vyroubalova, James Robert Wood

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This essay argues that the king’s body politic in Richard II depends not only on the king’s physical body but also on the many human bodies and material possessions that comprise the kingdom. Richard II presents the legal fictions of sovereignty and state and the illocutionary force of speech acts as ultimately resting on material bodies and objects. These bodies and objects tend to fall to the ground and fail to meet their owners’ intended purposes. While in the fiction of the play bodies and objects are mostly ineffectual, from a dramaturgical perspective it is precisely because bodies and objects do not align with their owners’ intentions that they appear to draw level with them as agents of dramatic action. People thus become like props in the play, and props become like people. Power is shown to be diffused away from the figure of the king towards the bodies and objects around him and the king himself is revealed to be a kind of prop.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEarly Modern Studies Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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