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date: 05 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter challenges the traditional term ‘problem play’ to categorize Troilus and Cressida, Measure for Measure, and All’s Well That Ends Well and instead looks at them as ‘comedies of rule’, in which young lovers seeking romantic felicity share the stage with rulers seeking power. Earlier comedies, of course, feature rulers such as dukes or kings, but in these the political interests of (mostly) benevolent rulers are aligned with the romantic interests of young lovers. In Troilus, Measure, and All’s Well, rulers, far from felicitously reconciling the assertion of their own power and the liberation of lovers from oppressive parents, consolidate political authority by regulating romantic desire. The chapter argues that this darker version of the comic ruler is a response to James I’s absolutist construction of the relation between rex and lex and his investment in fashioning himself as parens patriae.

Keywords: problem comedy, comedy of rule, sovereignty, Jacobean politics, King James I, Shakespeare and the law

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