Rachel Cohen

Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Fellow in the Humanities

20102011 Forum on Virtuality

Rachel Cohen


CAS, 2011

"Thus play I in one person many people": Performing Kingship in Richard II

This project seeks to consider the construction and performance of kingship in Richard II, as well as broader instability of character identity in Shakespearean drama. Using several early variant editions, published from 1597 through 1774, I compare variations in the manipulation of theatrical devices to examine how these texts construct different kings, who represent and understand subjectivity and monarchy in radically different ways. These inconsistencies reflect changing political and theatrical realities and, in turn, create characters shaped by the shifting social norms. My examination of the impact of textual instability on character definition demonstrates the contingency of the figure of "King Richard II," emphasizing the idiosyncrasies of specific texts.