Synopses & Reviews
Constance Jordan looks at how Shakespeare, through his romances, contributed to the cultural debates over the nature of monarchy in Jacobean England. Stressing the differences between absolutist and constitutionalist principles of rule, Jordan reveals Shakespeare's investment in the idea that a head of state should be responsive to law, and not be governed by his unbridled will. Conflicts within royal courts which occur in the romances show wives, daughters, and servants resisting tyrannical husbands, fathers, masters, and monarchs by relying on the authority of conscience.
These loyal subjects demonstrated to Shakespeare's diverse audiences that the vitality of the body politic, its dynastic future, and its material productivity depend on a cooperative union of ruler and subject. Drawing on representations of servitude and slavery in the humanist and political literature of the period, Jordan shows that Shakespeare's abusive rulers suffer as much as they impose on their subjects. Shakespeare's Monarchies recognizes the romances as politically inflected texts and confirms Shakespeare's involvement in the public discourse of the period.