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date: 17 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

In Richard III and King John, Shakespeare explores the assassin’s political agency in terms of the affective entanglements that connect him to his patron, partners, and victim, and that take shape within a particular network of material affordances and constraints. Conscience, which functions at the intersection of private feeling and public knowledge, provides an apt perspective into these affective entanglements. Whereas in Richard III the Executioners’ affective examination of conscience compromises Richard’s control over his assassination plot, in King John Arthur’s emotional appeals to his executioner affirm the value of a private and embodied affection, which ultimately makes a stronger claim on Hubert’s loyalties than his political bond with the king. Through these scenarios, Shakespeare explores how affective intimacies between men can shape ethical and political choices in ways that do not always serve the ends of those who wield the most power.

Keywords: Richard III, King John, history plays, assassins, affect, emotion, conscience

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