Typology and subjectivity in Hamlet and Coriolanus
in Mothers and meaning on the early modern English stage
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This chapter explores the vulnerability of maternity and the danger for the family that proceeds from it in the context of high tragedy, through readings of Hamlet and Coriolanus. Both plays, in their complex dealings with a son's relationship to his mother, demonstrate a reworking of typology to take account of shifting ideological preoccupations. In both plays, the mother has a public and political role that is dangerous and which makes her son vulnerable in a fragile political world. The mother as characterised may be sympathetic, but her maternity is destabilising, provocative of violence and a disturbance of family structure. The mother figure is here no longer a pathetic signifier of the personal consequences of political action; rather, she infects the political and creates danger through her own agency: an unhappy collision between her personal desires, her condition as mother and matters of state.

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