Politics and Tropes in Renaissance History Plays

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Rhetoric in sixteenth century English historical drama is intertwined with character development in relation to contemporary political paradigms. Recurring major political themes are those of strong rulership, stable government, the political responsibilities of the king, the peers, and the commons. Secondary themes are the need for monarchs to please their subjects, the need for both princes and peers to confront political reality with wisdom. This study concludes that Tudor dramatists were making the most of the politics of misunderstanding by exploiting the ambiguity inherent in rhetorical language. Tudor dramatists seriously questioned contemporary political doctrines by using oblique and “politic” rhetoric thereby shedding light upon the past in terms of the present in a fundamentally different way.


“It is to Dr. Mitali Wong’s credit to have taken advantage in her study of the recent critical interest in rhetoric and language in order to throw a new light on the content of the plays and on the motives of the dramatists. Dr. Wong’s particular achievement is to point to the special sophistication of the authors as they addressed through language manipulation contemporary issues, political beliefs at the same time as psychological, personal, and emotional concerns. Her serious analysis of a choice of Renaissance history plays, some of them in great part neglected by the traditional critics, clearly demonstrates that the plays she selected did not endorse exclusively the orthodox views and doctrines of the current ruling dynasty, but ambiguously raised important social and political questions. A brief survey of Dr. Wong’s chapters will hopefully point to her special contribution to Elizabethan drama scholarship ... Dr. Mitali Wong’s study is a definite contribution to Tudor drama criticism as it attracts renewed interest on these plays and greatly improves our perception of the different levels of meaning expressed by the authors.” – (from the Foreword) Guy Mermier, Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan

Table of Contents

Preface by Guy Mermier
1. Introduction
2. Civil Rebellion and Leadership in The Misfortunes of Arthur and The Wounds of Civil War
3. The “Mystery of Blood” in Edward II
4. The Ideal Protestant King in King Johan
5. “Borrowed Majesty” in King John and The Troublesome Reign
6. Realpolitik and the Saintly King Henry VI
7. Conclusion
Works Cited

Other Literature - Renaissance Books