The End Crowns All

The End Crowns All: Closure and Contradiction in Shakespeare's History

Barbara Hodgdon
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 336
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7ztrz8
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    The End Crowns All
    Book Description:

    In this bold reconceptualization of Shakespeare's histories as plays that ultimately generate and seek to legitimize new kings, Barbara Hodgdon examines how closure contests as well as celebrates power relations dominant in late Elizabethan and early Jacobean society--particularly those between sovereign and subjects. Taking a broad view of closure as a developing process in which narrative structures, generic signs, and rhetorical conventions play contributory, and often contradictory, roles, she also considers how theatrical representations interpret, or reinterpret, closural features to recuperate and redirect their social energies. By giving special emphasis to theatrical reproduction as a form of textuality and to the intertextual relations between drama and other forms of history writing, Hodgdon situates performance as a type of new historicism and shows how theatrical productions, like critical discourse, participate in cultural work. Through a study of playtexts and selected performance texts, she negotiates between the critical and theatrical guises of Shakespeare to assess how past and present-day theatrical practice has appropriated his work to serve particular institutional and social practices.

    Originally published in 1991.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6176-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xv-2)
  5. CHAPTER 1 “CHORUS TO THIS HISTORY”
    (pp. 3-21)

    My subject is closure and its contradictions in the ten plays First Folio (1623) calls “Histories”—The Life and Death of King John; The Life and Death of Richard the Second; The FirstandSecond Parts of King Henry the Fourth; The Life of King Henry the Fift; The First, Second, andThird Parts of King Henry the Sixt; The Life and Death of Richard the Third; andThe Life of King Henry the Eight. Quite simply, I am interested in mapping how these plays, which close with and on sovereignty, fashion a sense of ending.¹ I also want to...

  6. CHAPTER 2 FASHIONING OBEDIENCE: KING JOHN’S “TRUE INHERITORS”
    (pp. 22-43)

    Milne’s King John—alone, without friends, receiving Christmas greetings only from himself and never getting presents—seems designed as an object lesson encouraging readers, but especially its children-listeners, to be good so as to receive gifts from Father Christmas. Reassuring himself that he will get “one present, anyhow,” John asks for a “big, red India-rubber ball,” but on Christmas morning, his worst fears come true: “Nothing again for me!” As he stands at his window envying the happy children playing in the snow, “through the window big and red” comes that India-rubber ball, whether by child’s intent, marvelous accident, poetic...

  7. CHAPTER 3 ENCLOSING CONTENTION: 1, 2, AND 3 HENRY VI
    (pp. 44-99)

    Even so must I run on, and even so stop,” saysKing John's Prince Henry, marking his awareness, at his father’s death, of the limits of life and the continuity of kingship. His words, together with their situational context, suggestively describe the narrative and formal strategies that construct closure in Shakespeare’s threeHenry VIplays—plays that “run on,” like an uncontrolled sentence, beyond signs of tragic (or comic) enclosure and then stop. Indeed, their endings constitute a formal embarrassment, prompting critical assessments that range from “dramatically inconclusive” to the less pejorative (and seductively contemporary) “open-ended,” or, as if committed...

  8. CHAPTER 4 “THE COMING ON OF TIME”: RICHARD III
    (pp. 100-126)

    More’s account of Richard of Gloucester’s carefully staged takeover of England’s crown precisely analogizes the potentially subversive relationship between social text and theatrical representation that Shakespeare’s histories nourish and, in the case ofRichard III, exploit.¹ Although the spectacle More describes neither convinces nor co-opts its witnesses, who remark, “men must sometime for the manner sake not be aknowen what they know,” he nonetheless suggests that the very particular dangers of such games or scaffold-plays do not accrue to powerful kings but to powerless spectator-subjects. Even though they may recognize the sultan as a shoemaker, exposing his counterfeit puts onlookers...

  9. CHAPTER 5 “IF I TURN MINE EYES UPON MYSELF”: RICHARD II
    (pp. 127-150)

    Alone among Shakespeare’s histories,Richard IIdid more, in the waning years of her reign, than address and pay obedient homage to Queen Elizabeth’s multiform image. It confronted her with a disturbing equivalence, hinted at for over twenty years by some of her subjects, between the figure of Richard and her own royal identity.¹ At least so the familiar story goes, which connects a 7 February 1601 performance by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men of their “old” play—in all probability Shakespeare’s—about the deposition and murder of Richard II to the Earl of Essex’s quickly aborted uprising the next day.²...

  10. CHAPTER 6 “LET THE END TRY THE MAN”: 1 AND 2 HENRY IV
    (pp. 151-184)

    Taking Falstaff’s part, A. C. Bradley begins “The Rejection of Falstaff” (1902) by asking, “Now why did Shakespeare end his drama with a scene which, though undoubtedly striking, leaves an impression so unpleasant?” Eventually, he concludes thatHenry IVs “chief hero” is the “wild” Prince Henry, who, in order to emerge “as a just, wise, stern, and glorious King,” must, together with Bradley himself, banish Falstaffian plenitude.¹ Like Bradley, Orson Welles, a later Falstaffian conjuror, also begins with the end: discussing his 1966 film,Chimes at Midnight, an adaptation of1and2 Henry IVwith traces ofRichard II,...

  11. CHAPTER 7 “A FULL AND NATURAL CLOSE, LIKE MUSIC”: HENRY V
    (pp. 185-211)

    For the sixteenth-century chronicler, Agincourt is a miraculous “mirror and glass,” King Henry shining at its center as he leads the English from the jaws of defeat to a promised land, much like Moses freeing the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. But for the twentieth-century military historian, the mythologized narrative preserved in patterns of sound, light, and color, and glorified by art, Shakespeare, and Laurence Olivier is only one side of Agincourt’s history: the other is a tale of bloody manslaughter.¹ Similarly, critical narratives as well as theatrical representations have fracturedHenry V, the most generically flexible of Shakespeare’s histories, more...

  12. CHAPTER 8 UNCOMMON WOMEN AND OTHERS: HENRY VIII’S “MAIDEN PHOENIX”
    (pp. 212-234)

    On 14 january 1559, the day before her coronation, Elizabeth Tudor, “richly furnished, and most honorably accompanied,” rode in an open litter from the Tower through the City of London to Westminster, witness to a resplendent pageant, one of many in which she would be doubly inscribed, presented and re-presented. At Gracechurch Street, she saw a “gorgeous and sumptuous arch” spanning the street, covered with red and white roses and divided into three levels. On the lowest, two children, representing Henry VII, enclosed in a wreath of red roses, and his wife Elizabeth, enclosed in one of white, sat under...

  13. CHAPTER 9 “NO EPILOGUE, I PRAY YOU”
    (pp. 235-238)

    In their First Folio address to “the great Variety of Readers,” Heminges and Condell speak of themselves as the author’s “Friends,” collectors of his writings who “have published them, as where (before) you were abus’d with diverse stolen, and surreptitious copies, maimed and deformed by the frauds and stealthes of injurious imposters, that exposed them: even those are now offered to your view cured, and perfect of their limbs, and all the rest, absolute in their numbers, as he conceived them.” In contrast to the earlier privilege accorded to theatrical performance of the plays, Folio, in keeping with the new...

  14. ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. None)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 239-296)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 297-309)