(S)wept from power
Two versions of tyrannicide in Richard III
in The Renaissance of emotion
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Shakespeare’s English history plays are customarily referred to as chronicle histories, yet several could also be termed complaint histories, none more so than Richard III. Although the events depicted in Richard III predate the English Reformation by half a century, its impact on the relationship between the living and the dead, the expression of grief and the representation of mourning is palpable and politically charged in Shakespeare’s play. At a time, late in Elizabeth’s reign, when public displays of loud mourning were denounced by reformed clergy as faithless and excessive and branded ‘heathenish’ and ‘popish’, Shakespeare provocatively populates his play with grieving women whose sharp plaints and bitter curses disrupt the customary masculine soundscape of chronicle history. Rather stifling the sound and suppressing the spectacle of immoderate mourning, Shakespeare exploits maternal lamentation to broach the dangerous subject of tyrannicide. That he does so in a play depicting the rise to power and brief reign of the king on whose violent overthrow the Tudor regime was founded makes the conjunction of political matter and affective speech in Richard III of particular interest in the history of emotion.

The Renaissance of emotion

Understanding affect in Shakespeare and his contemporaries


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