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By Katharine Eisaman Maus

What's the relation among who somebody is, and what she or he has? a couple of Shakespeare's performs have interaction with this question, elaborating a 'poetics of estate' centering on questions of authority and entitlement, of inheritance and prodigality, and of the several possibilities afforded via entry to land and to chattel estate. Being and Having in Shakespeare considers those shows of possession and authority Richard II and the Henry IV performs construe sovereignty as a sort of estate correct, mostly construing imperium, or the authority over folks in a polity, as a sort of dominium, the authority of the propertyholder. still, what estate ability alterations significantly from Richard's reign to Henry's, because the imagined international of the performs is reconfigured to incorporate an city economic system of chattel consumables. The service provider of Venice, written among Richard II and Henry IV, half 1, reimagines, in comedian phrases, a few of the comparable concerns broached within the background performs. It focuses particularly at the challenge of the daughter's inheritance and at the various estate tasks between relations, buddies, enterprise affiliates, and spouses. within the determine of the 'vagabond king', theoretically entitled yet truly dispossessed, Henry VI, half 2 and King Lear either coordinate difficulties of entitlement with conundrums approximately distributive justice, elevating basic questions about estate kinfolk and social association.

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As I have already suggested, the ideology that supported the feudal system is one of elaborate harmony and mutual support, but in fact, multiple-layered claims over the same piece of territory create the possibility of conflict between those layers. If the conflicts are resolved in favor of the feeholder, he who has seisin to an estate in land, then the rights of the overlord are necessarily restricted, and vice versa. Hence the importance of established law and precedent to restrain the self-aggrandizement of individuals, to regulate what would otherwise be their “mere will” or “lusts,” and to restore, according to Being and Having in Richard II 25 socially acceptable principles, the functioning of each facet within a complex social array.

Yet the play suggests that when push comes to shove, the “monarch-as-legally-constrained-landholder” model trumps that of “monarch-as-anointed-delegate-of-God”. It is certainly the view that eventually prevails as a matter of fact. The analysis of royal power in Richard II as, essentially, an exalted form of feudal landholding implies an extremely tight connection between being and having, or at least between ruling and having. Yet that’s not the play’s whole story. For if the institutions of feudal land tenure tend to conflate property-holding, sovereign authority, and personal identity, the plot of Richard II pulls them apart.

P. Chekhov,” Teatr i iskusstvo (11 July 1904), p. 521. Douglas Bruster examines an aspect of this variation, the different number and kinds of small objects or hand props used onstage in different dramatic genres, in “The Dramatic Life of Objects in Early Modern Theater,” chapter 4 in Shakespeare and the Question of Culture (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), pp. 95–118. See, for instance, the discussion of Richard II as an “unripe Hamlet” in W. B. Yeats’s “At Stratford-on-Avon, Part II,” originally published May 18, 1901; also the comments in C.

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