“In everything illegitimate”: Bastards and the national family
This paper argues that illegitimacy is a concept that relates to almost all of the fundamental ways in which Western society has traditionally organised itself. Sex, family and marriage, and the power of the church and state, are all implicated in the various ways in which society reproduces itself from generation to generation. All employ the concepts of legitimacy and illegitimacy to define what is and what is not permissible. Further, the creation of the illegitimate can occur in more or less legitimate ways; for example, through acts of consent, on the one hand; and force, on the other. This paper uses the study of an English Renaissance text, Shakespeare’s Henry V, to argue that these concepts remain potent ones, regularly invoked as a means of identifying and denouncing perceived threats to the good ordering of the social fabric...