Patriotic Shakespeare : the idealising of King Richard II & Henry Bolingbroke/King Henry IV as Biblical types. (1994)
AuthorsHighley, Matthewshow all
The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 was a monumental event which inspired William Shakespeare and other English playwrights to dramatise the recent history of their country. The history of fifteenth century England, however, is not the history of another "Eden, demi-paradise", but the history of the "field of Golgotha" where royal kings were slain and ambitious nobles waged civil war. Influenced by the recent publications of the English Bible, Shakespeare reconciled his patriotic inclinations with reality by idealising several of the kings and nobles (as well as a queen) who played a principal part in the, history of pre-Tudor and Tudor England, as biblical types. In Part One of this thesis, I argue that King Richard II in the play of that name, is portrayed as a type of Christ whose death becomes not a grubby murder, but a sacrifice which leads initially to King Henry V, the "mirror of all Christian kings" and ultimately to Queen Elizabeth. In Part Two, I argue that Henry Bolingbroke is a type of Satan who coaxes the English people to depose their God-ordained king and crown him; but in both parts of Henry IV, he, as the king of that name, acknowledges his "fault", thereby incurring the favour of a God who sanctifies the usurped Lancastrian throne and postpones His judgment upon the land. The limitations of this thesis will not allow me to present a detailed analysis of Prince Hal/King Henry V as being a prodigal who becomes another type of Christ when he is glorified in the Agincourt campaign. Neither do I examine the characterisation of the hapless King Henry VI, in whose reign the divine retribution of the War of the Roses falls upon England in much the same way that the Babylonians fell upon Jerusalem in 586 B.C. In the Conclusion, I introduce Henry Richmond who, upon killing the "bloody dog" and ending the civil war, becomes yet another deliverer. His prayer for England's prospe1ity in the final scene of Richard III, foreshadows the coming of the final type of Christ, Queen Elizabeth. Upon her birth, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, a type of Simeon, may express the sentiments of Shakespeare himself as he blesses her, prophesying that her reign will be a type of Millenium when England finally realizes the greatness for which she has been destined.