Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Dr Charles Edelman


This paper considers Shakespeare's representation of the north of England in his second tetralogy of history plays. In this study, I argue that the plays are not only a representation of the past, but an expression of the political, cultural and geographical divisions within England in the era of their production. Drawing on contemporary reports from the region, official papers, ballads and various modern histories of the age, I will suggest that there exists a direct correlation between Shakespeare's representation of the region and the concept of the north as the alien element within Elizabethan England. Reading the plays as explorations of the development of England from feudalism to a centralised nation state, I discuss the manner in which Shakespeare's second tetralogy exposes the contradictions behind the concept of a united and stable England. Central to my argument is the notion that to be marginalised (in the latter decades of the sixteenth century) was not only a matter of social status or political expediency but was, to a degree, dependent on being identified as belonging to, and existing within, the geographical margins of the state. The four central chapters, comprising Richard II, both parts of Henry IV and Henry v, examine the manner in which the north, and those associated with it, are increasingly presented as a disruptive element that threatens the stability of the realm, a role that I suggest is reliant on both historical experience and contemporary expectation. In the final chapter, I attempt to discuss the implications of the north's portrayal in the Elizabethan popular theatre in relation to the current debate within New Historicist criticism.