«by JANE ELIZABETH KINGSLEY-SMITH A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Arts of the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY The ...»
the exile is seen as a kind of anti-poet, the opposite of the figure of the poet at the feet of his lord, the centre of society, who binds words and weaves sounds to make language. The exile is an unbinder, an undoer, and an uncreator.' In Richard II, the King proves himself to be an enemy of corporate identity. He sells off England's land, levies exorbitant taxes upon commons and nobles, breaks England's laws and
thus alienates himself from the kingdom. Richard subsequently undergoes two forms of exile:
the first in Ireland viewed retrospectively, the second when he is deposed by Bolingbroke.
The King's response to this formal expression of his identity as 'an unbinder, an undoer, and an uncreator' is to deploy poetry. It is through metaphor and simile that Richard seeks to identify himself once more with kingship and with England. When this fails, the exile tries to imagine a new identity for himself. Yet for all Richard's poetic struggles, he cannot conceive an alternative to kingship.
1 David Williams, 'The Exile as Uncreator', Mosaic 8 (Spring 1975), 1-15. 4.
2 Ibid.. 8-9.
According to one theory, the deposition of the king should be conceptually impossible. The
within himself land, law and people. Even in death, his identity remains inextricably tied to the realm as the Crown passes to his successor. The theory of the king's two bodies was applied by lawyers in the Duchy of Lancaster Case (1561), as famously enumerated by Edmund Plowden in his Reports (1571). Plowden describes one body as mortal and susceptible to infirmity, the other as eternal and immutable, consisting of Policy and Government. Both are incorporated in the person of the sovereign. 3 Although the possession of this divine and perfect body may have served the absolutist ambitions of kings, the theory was primarily concerned with the continuity of land. Marie Axton describes how the ecclesiastical 'corpus mysticum' had proven invaluable in the maintenance of church estates. 4 In the Duchy of Lancaster Case, the theory is used to settle a dispute over land previously owned by the Crown, though this time against the Queen's wishes. In the debate over the Elizabethan succession, the theory was applied with regard to the disposal of England itself. 3 Fundamentally, the metaphor was needed to explain and codify the continuity of England.
Axton describes the Tudor lawyers grappling with this paradox:
men died and the land endured; kings died, the crown survived; individual subjects died but subjects always remained to be governed. Perhaps the 3 Quoted by Ernst H. Kantorowicz in The King's Two Bodies: A Study in Mediaeval Political Theology (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957), 7. See his study of the transmission of this metaphor from the ecclesiastical 'corpus mysticum' to the representation of a political collective in the chapter 'Polity-Centred Kingship: Corpus Mysticum', 193-272.
4 Marie Axton, The Queen's Two Bodies: Drama and the Elizabethan Succession (London: Royal Historical Society, 1977), 13-4.
5 In A Treatise of the Two Bodies of the King, vis. Natural and Politic (1566), Plowden defended Mary Stuart's claim to the throne. He denied John Hales' arguments that Mary could not inherit because she was a foreigner, because Scotland was out of English jurisdiction, and because Henry VIII's will specified otherwise, by posing a legal distinction between the natural and politic bodies of a sovereign. See The Queen's Two Bodies, 26-37.
lawyers were unwilling to envisage England itself as a perpetual corporation because the law had always vested land in a person. Anyway, for the purposes of law it was found necessary by 1561 to endow the Queen with two bodies: a body natural and a body politic [...] When lawyers spoke of this body politic they referred to a specific quality: the essence of corporate perpetuity. 6 The theory did not allow for the possibility that the king might oppose himself to this body politic. Nor did it conceive of that body as vulnerable to the tyrant's will. The question of what action could be taken when a king pursued his own interests above those of the 'corporate perpetuity' was vociferously debated during Mary Fs reign and in the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I. It was hoped that the sovereign would feel a moral obligation to obey the law and to merit the possession of the body politic. 7 If not there were alternatives.
Radicals such as the Protestant John Ponet and the Catholic Robert Parsons posited a fragile contractual relationship between king and commonwealth.8 If this contract were broken, the bonds between the king's two bodies might be severed. In Ponet's tract, A Shorte Treatise of
Politicke Power (1556), he leaves no doubt as to which body should predominate:
And men ought to have more respect to their Countrey then to their Prince: to the Common-wealth, then to any one person. For the Countrey and Commonwealth is a degree above the King. Next unto God, men ought to love their Countrey, and the whole Common-wealth, before any member of it: as Kings and Princes (be they never so great) are but members: and Common-wealths may stand well enough and flourish, albeit there be no Kings, but contrariwise without a Common-wealthe there can be no King. CommonThe Queen 's Two Bodies, 12.
7 Richard Hooker argues that men may choose their king but once they have endowed him with power they must obey him as God. Although it is to be hoped that a king will naturally act within the laws of the kingdom, there is nothing the people can do to restrain him. Hence, Hooker suggests that sovereign power should be limited in some way before it is bestowed. See Of The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity in The Works of Richard Hooker ed.
by Rev. John Keble and revised by R. W. Church and F. Paget (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1888), 7th edition, vol.
3, Bk8, ii. 6-1 l,pp 345-51.
8 In A Conference about the next Succession to the Crowne oflngland (Antwerp, 1594) STC 19398, Parsons bases his argument for the nation's power to depose monarchs and redefine the succession on this contractual understanding. He argues that if the sovereign breaks his coronation oath to 'rule and governe iustly, according to law, conscience, equity, and religion [...] then is the commonwealth not only free from al oaths, made by her of obedience or allegiance to such unworthy Princes, but is bound moreover for saving the whole body, to resist chasten and remove such evel heades. if she be able, for that otherwise al would come to distruction, ruyne. and publique desolation', 77-8.
Such tracts as this should give us pause before the divine right theory comes to seem too central to Richard II. Shakespeare was writing at a time when the two bodies theory and the principle of divine right were demystified or treated as pragmatic legal fictions perhaps as often as they were asserted with unquestioning belief. 10 In his chapter on the play, Ernst Kantorowicz argues that here Shakespeare 'eternalized' the metaphor of the king's two bodies, making it 'the very substance and essence of one of his greatest plays' (26). But he is more interested in the image as a psychological truth about kingship," than in the competing ideologies concerning kingship that Shakespeare invokes. Kantorowicz sees the play as Richard's tragedy, political only as it was appropriated by the Essex conspirators (40-1).
Though he describes how the metaphor is destroyed within the play, Kantorowicz has no interest in the reasons why this happens. He ignores the nobility's claim that by deposing Richard it will redeem kingship and England itself.
Taking into account contemporary disagreement over the divine right theory, some critics have suggested that Richard II reveals a nostalgia for the medieval world in which this 9 John Ponet, A Shorts Treatise ofPoliticke Power and of the True Obedience which Subjects owe to Kings and other Civill Governours (London 1556), STC 20179, 28.
10 Wilbur Sanders contests the idea expressed by Tillyard and Campbell among others that divine right kingship was an uncontested doctrine at the time of the play's composition. He offers several examples of contemporary dissent. See The Dramatist and the Received Idea: Studies in the Plays of Marlowe and Shakespeare (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), 143-57.
1 ' Kantorowicz suggests that Shakespeare could have known of the two bodies theory through connections at the Inns of Court but declines to prove a debt: 'It seems all very trivial and irrelevant, since the image of the twinned nature of a king, or even of man in general, was most genuinely Shakespeare's own and proper vision', The King's Two Bodies, 25.
doctrine commanded greater awe and faith. 12 Yet within the play, 'medieval' voices are heard disputing the so-called hegemony of divine right kingship. In Holinshed, medieval England is characterised by the conflict between aristocratic and monarchical ideology rather than an unquestioned acceptance of divine right. It is this dialectic that Graham Holderness finds dramatised in Richard II and epitomised by the King's failure to reconcile Bolingbroke and
Honour has become more absolute than allegiance; loyalty to kin has superseded duty to sovereign; chivalric personal dignity has exceeded civil obligation. Monarchy has failed to control the power of feudalism. 13 The nobility also has a claim to represent and to protect English corporate perpetuity. Indeed,
in feudal terms it could be said to have a divine right to do so. Christopher Morris reminds us:
the rights of the feudal aristocracy were no more disputable than the king's;
and the place and function of the nobles in society was held to be no less a part of the divinely planned natural order. If a king had any kind of divine right, the nobles had it too. All right had to be divine right if it was to be right at all. 14 Hence, the king's 'possession' of the body politic could be challenged by the aristocracy's right to defend that body, even from the king himself. England's peers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries could point to a long history of preserving England's perpetuity, of protecting its laws and institutions. 13 The Marian exile, Christopher Goodman, condemns the 12 See Sanders, The Dramatist and the Received Idea, 149.
13 Shakespeare Recycled: The Making of Historical Drama (New York and London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992), 51-72, 60.
14 Christopher Morris, Political Thought in England- Tyndale to Hooker (London: Oxford University Press, 1953), 12.
15 In The Rites of Knighthood: The Literature and Politics of Elizabethan Chivalry (Berkeley and London:
University of California Press, 1989), Richard C. McCoy explores the use of chivalry to contain and partially exorcise the latent antagonism between sovereign and aristocracy during the reigns of Elizabeth and James. He also examines the failure of these ceremonies in the case of Essex and charts the Earl's investigations into and advocacy of noble prerogatives, 89-94.
peers who have participated in Mary's bloody persecutions to the destruction of the nation.
He argues that it is the nobles who firste were ordayned in Realmes to stande in defence of trewe religion, lawes, and welth of their nation, and to be a shylde (to their power) agaynst their enimies in tyme of warre, and a brydel at home to their Princes in tyme of peace. 16 Gaunt and York uneasily subjugate feudal values of familial and personal honour and martial renown to the duty owed to their sovereign. But eventually the compulsion to protect the kingdom and their own interests overcomes royal allegiance. Ironically, it is Richard's failure to embody divine kingship that results in their defection. The King acts in direct contradiction of the principle of the king's two bodies in his habitual abuse of the body politic. The realm is merely a possession outside the King's physical body and for much of the play beyond his imagination. To Gaunt and York, Richard threatens the perpetuity of England itself, an offence that may unite the whole kingdom against him.
The debate between the Duchess of Gloucester and John of Gaunt is dominated by their opposing ideas of continuity and identity. The Duchess' moral outrage at her husband's murder derives not from personal loss alone but from the violation done to Edward III. She figures his sons as branches from that 'most royal root' (1.2.18), and as vials of his 'sacred blood' (12, 17). Her metaphors of containment and encirclement will reverberate throughout the play, in particular the use of 'model' which occurs four times. 1 ' In each case 'model" is concerned with essence and its continuance or loss. Gloucester was 'the model of thy father's life' (28). With his death, Edward Ill's perpetuity through his son is destroyed and Gaunt 16 How Superior Powers Oght to be Obeyd of their Subjects (Geneva 1558), STC 12020, 35.
17 See the recurrence of'model' at 3.2.149, 3.4.43, and 5.1.11.
himself is damaged. This is partly because to accept the murder of his brother without vengeance, Thou show'st the naked pathway to thy life./ Teaching stern murder how to butcher thee' (31-2). Yet the Duchess also suggests the dependence of the model on the
have expired. Hence, King Richard II embodies the spirit of the former king, even as he has spilt that 'precious liquor' (19). The Duchess does refer to Edward's sovereignty in her elegy but this is only as an embellishment of his patriarchal status. Crucially, it is not the continuum of the body politic but only that of aristocratic blood that concerns the Duchess.
Gaunt opposes this kin-centred view with the doctrine of divine right. He represents Richard
as set apart from the aristocratic body and beyond the reach of vengeance:
Moreover, Gaunt will not categorically state that the murder was a crime which merits vengeance. His hesitation, 'if wrongfully', suggests qualms about judging God's deputy.
Later, the Queen will chastise the Gardener for daring to presume to judge Richard (3.4.79The possession of the Crown conferred immortality upon the individual king even when it had passed to his successor. Henry VIII was still referred to as alive in his son's reign. On the theory of demise see The King's Two Bodies, 13-5, and The Queen's Two Bodies, 27-30.