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Prologue: ‘The Histories’ and History

  • Graham Holderness
  • Nick Potter
  • John Turner
Part of the Contemporary Interpretations of Shakespeare book series (CIS)

Abstract

The question of genre seems unproblematical when applied to that group of Shakespeare’s plays which dramatizes the course of English history from 1398 to 1485. Confidently grouped in chronological order and designated as ‘histories’ as early as the First Folio of 1623, they were evidently assimilated quite naturally to a nondramatic category, that of historiography. Each play, bearing the title of a particular king, stands as the equivalent of a chapter of one of the Tudor chronicles; the whole series forming an integrated narrative of historical process. Unlike other genres such as comedy and tragedy, which have their origins in religious ritual, that of ‘chronicle’ produces a dramatic fiction directly based in the secularized representation of supposed historical fact. The mediating authority of the Tudor chronicles themselves links the plays indissolubly to the concrete history of the society they both address: so the two related terms ‘English’ and ‘history’ appear to define with sufficiently lucid certainty both the generic and the sociological categories to which these plays belong.

Keywords

Historical Consciousness English History Secularized Representation Historical Drama Renaissance Culture 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Graham Holderness, Nick Potter and John Turner 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Graham Holderness
    • 1
  • Nick Potter
    • 2
  • John Turner
    • 1
  1. 1.University College of SwanseaUK
  2. 2.West Glamorgan Institute of Higher EducationUK

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