Forbidden Familial Relations: Echoes of Shakespeare’s King Henry VIII and Hamlet in Austen’s Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility

  • Glenda A. Hudson


Echoes and resonances of Shakespeare may be detected in Austen’s Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility in the leitmotif of incestuous sibling connections. In both Shakespeare and Austen, incestuous sibling connections are used to probe discourses of family, gender, class and domination and demonstrate how these discourses inform social, cultural and political worlds, and vice versa. In Shakespeare’s King Henry VIII and Hamlet, incest is used as a strategy to brandish and amalgamate power and to advance the interests of the ruling class in a blood-sustained time of violence, suppression and radical change. In Austen’s Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility, incest is still used as a defensive strategy to safeguard the family, and also as a means to create a more equitable balance in society between men and women during a violent revolutionary era of upheaval and tyranny.

This essay seeks to compare Henry VIII and Hamlet with Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility. The cultural-historical and intertextual connections between Shakespeare and Austen, with respect to incestuous family alliances and their ties to issues of control, succession and equality of status in their respective periods, offer a new perspective on the links between the two most popular English authors.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Glenda A. Hudson
    • 1
  1. 1.California State University, BakersfieldBakersfieldUSA

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