“But not my griefs still am I king of those”. The King’s Two Bodies and Shakespeare’s Second Tetralogy Cover Image
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„I własnych cierpień pozostaję królem”. Dwa Ciała Króla i druga tetralogia Shakespeare’a
“But not my griefs still am I king of those”. The King’s Two Bodies and Shakespeare’s Second Tetralogy

Author(s): Emilia Olechnowicz
Subject(s): History, Fine Arts / Performing Arts
Published by: Instytut Sztuki Polskiej Akademii Nauk
Keywords: Shakespeare William; theatre; anthropology

Summary/Abstract: Shakespearean dramas about English history – most frequently known as chronicles (histories) – can be perceived as a great study of the multiple aspects of the phenomenon of power, dealing with legitimisation and usurpation, loyalty and treason, and tyranny and helplessness. They are also interpreted as “mourning plays” in the sense proposed by Benjamin, in which the characters of the kings function as semi-allegorical dramatis personae waging a duel involving power and helplessness. The chronicles produce a vision of a world submerged in a crisis and eternally on the verge of war. They take place in a well-ordered world suddenly destroyed by violence or in a devastated world that has to be controlled by resorting to violence. Peace – assuming that it exists – is fragile, just as is authority, constantly threatened by intrigues and conspiracies, but also by the ruler’s inner weakness. Paradoxically, they thus tell a story in which sole power belongs to the monarch but cannot be effectively wielded by him. These histories accentuate also the irremovable dissonance between the majesty of the throne and the condition of the person sitting on it or, to resort to terminology introduced by Ernst Kantorowicz – between the King’s Two Bodies. The theory formulated in Elizabethan England was supposed to become a universal and unconquerable principle of the monarchy. Shakespeare, meanwhile, demonstrated vividly that it is wavering and easily questioned. In his second tetralogy he described the great crisis of legitimisation, whose outcome is an irreversible change in the comprehension of power.

  • Issue Year: 314/2016
  • Issue No: 3-4
  • Page Range: 231-238
  • Page Count: 8
  • Language: Polish