Shakespeare’s Plays of Deranged Authority: The King’s Three Bodies

Daniel Krier

Abstract


Shakespeare’s plays are situated upon the threshold of two worlds: a declining traditional order torn apart by political rivalry and ascendant early-modern capitalism. The history plays dramatize infighting among warring factions of privileged aristocrats as well as revolutionary forces propelled by the rising commons and the politics of commodity. Legitimate authority is rarely secure among the kings perched upon Shakespearean thrones. In Shakespeare’s Henriad and King John, crowns are contested from the moment they are placed upon royal heads, inspiring Kantorwicz’s political theology: the corporeal body of short-lived kings is distinct from the sovereign’s sublime body that reigns without cease. “The King is dead, long live the King!”  A re-reading of Shakespeare’s plays of deranged authority reveals, as Lacan would predict, that his kings possess three bodies: corpo-“real,” imaginary, and symbolic. When fractured and animated by different characters, the king’s three bodies map onto Weber’s three modes of legitimate domination. In King John, the “imaginary” body of the king – the character most capable of acting with noble warrior honor expected of Kings – is the charismatic “Bastard” who can never ascend to symbolic legitimacy. The article ends with an analysis of the three bodies of sovereignty in the contemporary moment of deranged authority: Trumpism.


Keywords


Critical Theory; Sociology; Shakespeare; Henriad; Political TheoryKing John; Trump

Full Text:

PDF

References


Agamben, Giorgio. 2005. State of Exception.Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Dollimore, Jonathan. 1984. Radical Tragedy: Religion, Ideology and Power in the Drama of Shakespeare and his Contemporaries. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Dollimore, Jonathan. and Sinfield, Alan. 1985. Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism. Ithaca: Cornell.

Fischer, David H. 1989. Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America. New York: Oxford.

Jones, Ernest. 1949. Hamlet and Oedipus. New York: Doubleday.

Kamps, Ivo (ed.). 1995. Materialist Shakespeare: A History. Verso: London.

Kantorowicz, Ernst. H. 1997. The King’s Two Bodies: A Study in Medieval Political Theology. Princeton: Princeton.

Lacan, Jacques. 2006. Ecrits. Tr. B. Fink. New York: W. W. Norton.

Mack, Maynard. 1993. Everybody’s Shakespeare: Reflections Chiefly on the Tragedies. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Major, John R. 1980.Representative Government in Early Modern France. New Haven and London: Yale UP.

Paulin, Roger. 2003. The Critical Reception of Shakespeare in Germany, 1682-1914. Native Literature and Foreign Genius. Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag.

Santner, Eric. 2011. The Royal Remains: The People’s Two Bodies and the Endgames of Sovereignty.Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Schmitt, Carl. 1985. Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty.Tr. by Schwab, G. and Strong, T.B., Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Schmitt, Carl. 2014. Dictatorship. Tr. by Hoelzl, M. and Ward, G. Cambridge, GB: Polity.

Shakespeare, William. 2005. William Shakespeare: The Complete Works, Second Edition. Oxford: Clarendon.

Smirnov, Alexander. 1936. Shakespeare: A Marxist Interpretation.Accessed June 15, 2019 at https://www.marxists.org/subject/art/lit_crit/works/shakes.htm

Tennehouse, Leonard. 1986. Power on Display: The Politics of Shakespeare’s Genres. New York: Methuen.

Veblen, Thorstein. 1918. “An Early Experiment in Trusts.” Pp. 497-509 in The Place of Science in Modern Civilization and Other Essays. New York: Viking

Weber, Max. 1978. Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology. Ed. By G. Roth and C. Wittich. Berkeley: University of California Press.




DOI: https://doi.org/10.32855/fcapital.201902.004

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.




Copyright (c) 2019 Daniel Krier

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

ISSN: 1930-014X