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Shakespeare’s Hollow Crown: The Burdens of Kingship for Plantagenet Kings

Giaconda's Blog

crown

Having just written two blogs on Henry Vth and touched on this subject, I wanted to explore Shakespeare’s re-occurring theme of the burdens of kingship in his history plays with particular reference to Richard II and Henry IV, Parts I and II and on into Henry Vth and Richard III.

Richard II’s famous monologue sums up the perils of medieval kingship thus:

For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings;
How some have been deposed; some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed;
Some poison’d by their wives: some sleeping kill’d;
All murder’d: for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,

Wonderfully concise and arresting lines which powerfully express the fears which weigh on…

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