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date: 22 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter begins by tracing how history plays recover thematic unities from Holinshed's Chronicles. Shakespeare translated into the medium of drama four major political themes and messages taught by Holinshed and his successors who enlarged the 1587 text: the ideal and decorum of English kingship, the role of France in English public discourse, the idea of Englishness, and the idea of the commonwealth. These ideologemes place both Holinshed's narrative and Shakespeare's histories in the context of Tudor uses of historical memory, reflecting how sixteenth-century English people conceived of their nation's coming into being – both as a patria defined by ethnicity and culture, and as a polity, a commonwealth. The second part explores Shakespeare's rearticulation of the historical role of the commons in Holinshed's English medieval history, and especially how popular displeasure and political critique are expressed.

Keywords: English history, history plays, medieval period, Middle Ages, Chronicles, English kingship, France, commonwealth

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