Date of Award

1-1-1999

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

Language & Literature

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Charles Edelman

Abstract

This dissertation examines the representation of England in the plays of the first tetralogy. Arguing that a large number of studies of Shakespearian drama have tended to gloss over the inherent differences within the English nation. I suggest that regionalism and regional identity play a pivotal role in Shakespeare's dramatisation of English history from the accession of Henry VI to the death of Richard Ill. In this thesis I propose that the first tetralogy is not only a representation of the past, but an expression of the political, cultural and geographical divisions within England during the period of the plays first production. While Shakespeare's first tetralogy forms part of an interconnecting discourse of nationhood -- contributing to what has been termed the discovery of England -- I explore how the plays also serve to highlight the extent to which regionalism and regional diversity remained powerful factors within English society. By drawing attention to the proliferation of geographical references in the tetralogy, I discuss how the localisation of scenes and the identification of characters with specific places represents an encounter with the kingdom beyond the confines of the theatre. In a series of plays that appear to be principally concerned with the struggle between rival dynasties for control of the realm, the various regional references can be read as the site of competing voices and sectional interests: an acknowledgment of not one England, but various other Englands. While the image of the regional world in these plays is largely informed by the chronicle sources, this study considers how Shakespeare's fashioning of regional identity was governed by the need for Elizabethan acting companies to secure and maintain the protection of powerful and influential patrons, by censorship, company rivalry, and the demands placed on theatre companies by touring. With this in mind, I argue that the manner in which certain characters and regions are presented in the tetralogy is an indication that these plays may have been performed throughout England. After a theoretical overview, chapter one presents an examination of regionalism as a social, cultural, political and economic phenomenon in early modem England. It is followed by a discussion of the various ways in which a sense of place was projected on the Elizabethan stage. Appropriating William Harrison's division of the late Tudor kingdom into four distinct provinces, this dissertation interrogates the role and representation in the first tetralogy of the area south of the Thames (chapter two), the midlands (chapter three), Wales and the English border counties (chapter four), and northern England (chapter five).

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