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date: 23 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Over the course of the sixteenth century, numerous playwrights composed plays about King John of England (r. 1199–1216). While representing the king’s failed attempt to assert national sovereignty over papal control, the plays explore an even more subtle problem: the legal threat that monastic immunity poses to papal and monarchical power. The chapter examines how plays written by John Bale, George Peele, and William Shakespeare used their representations of King John to attend, in a post-Reformation context, to the legal complexities of monasticism as a social practice. In articulating the difficulties that communal formations and monasticism as a social practice create for post-Reformation politics and law, sixteenth-century dramatists—this chapter argues—shape a new version of legal history.

Keywords: John Bale, George Peele, William Shakespeare, monasticism, immunity, Roberto Esposito, Giorgio Agamben, English history plays, King John

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