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Shakespeare's Mortal Men

Overcoming Death in History, Comedy and Tragedy


Patricia L. Carlin

This study argues compellingly that the wish to confront and master death is a key shaping force of individual plays, of Shakespeare's genres, and of his work as a whole. Focusing on Richard II, Henry IV Part One and Part Two, and Henry V, the book shows how these plays of the 1590's reflect the transition from a feudal to an early modern society. New cultural conditions necessitated new psychological and theatrical strategies for dealing with death, strategies enacted by characters within plays, by whole plays, and by genre itself. Love's Labor's Lost and Romeo and Juliet illustrate key strategies operative throughout Shakespeare's comedies and tragedies. This book offers fresh insight into individual plays. It also casts new light on the nature and function of Shakespearean genre, and on the development of the canon as a whole.
Contents: How the need to deal with death shapes Shakespeare's history, comedy and tragedy. Material covered includes Richard II, Henry IV Part One and Part Two, Henry V, Love's Labor's Lost, Romeo and Juliet, cultural and historical change in Elizabethan England, and English medieval and Tudor drama.