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Autumnal Faces

Old Age in British and Irish Dramatic Narratives

Edited By Katarzyna Bronk

Autumnal Faces is a timely study within the ever-growing research on the ways older people and ageing itself have been conceptualized and represented in the popular imagination and, more specifically, in drama and on stage. Tracing this theme from the Renaissance to the twenty-first century, this volume offers original, innovative and diachronic analyses of plays and performances that focus on or are peopled with older characters. The contributors study the roots of positive and negative stereotypes pertaining to senescence and the elderly, offering meticulous interpretations of dramatic narratives and performances on topics such as gendered ageing, geronticide, the «sins» of senex amans and iratus, ageing and uncontrolled passions versus ageing and prudence, longevity and immortality, memory and life narratives, the elderly as storytellers and repositories of wisdom in British and Irish culture, Alzheimer’s disease and the loss of self, and intergenerational conflicts. Ultimately, this collection of essays answers the ongoing call for more studies devoted to humanistic/cultural gerontology, seeing old age not just as an issue affecting past generations but one that is increasingly important as we all age into an unknown future.

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2 Ageing and Paternal Relationships in William Shakespeare’s 1&2 Henry IV (Patrick Aaron Harris)


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2    Ageing and Paternal Relationships in William Shakespeare’s 1&2 Henry IV


One of the fundamental tenets of the father–son relationship is how inheritance and legacy can inform their interaction and influence the development of the child’s identity. This is especially true where the father is ageing and expected to die soon. What these ageing fathers are also working to ensure is their paternal legacy, that the memory of them will live on in the life of their child. Shakespeare’s Henry IV plays give their dramatic weight to the paternal foils, Henry IV and Falstaff, and their relationship with the prince. The pressures of these two ageing fathers cause the prince to develop dual identities: Hal, a rakish young man, and Henry, Prince of Wales. However, as this chapter shows, these two identities, and the desires of his father-figures, are irreconcilable and one must give way to the other if the prince is to lead one whole and fulfilled life.

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