Kingship, Madness, and Masculinity examines representations of mad kings in early modern English theatrical texts and performance practices.
Although there have been numerous volumes examining the medical and social dimensions of mental illness in the early modern period, and a few that have examined stage representations of such conditions, this volume is unique in its focus on the relationships between madness, kingship, and the anxiety of lost or fragile masculinity. The chapters uncover how, as the early modern understanding of mental illness refocused on human, rather than supernatural, causes, public stages became important arenas for playwrights, actors, and audiences to explore expressions of madness and to practice diagnoses. Throughout the volume, the authors engage with the field of disability studies to show how disability and mental health were portrayed on stage and what those representations reveal about the period and the people who lived in it. Altogether, the essays question what happens when theatrical expressions of madness are mapped onto the bodies of actors playing kings, and how the threat of diminished masculinity affects representations of power.
This volume is the ideal resource for students and scholars interested in the history of kingship, gender, and politics in early modern drama.
Table of Contents
Introduction: madness, kingship, and early modern masculinity
Section 1: Distracted kingship
1. "Cold in great affairs:" finding madness in the writer’s method: decoding representations of the madness of Shakespeare’s Henry VI
2. "Bad is the world": Richard III and social deformity
Liberty S. Stanavage
3. "Every madman dreameth waking": Macbeth and The Winter’s Tale
4. "Now quit you of great shames": Henry V and the mad French king
Section Two: Fractured masculinity
5. "The strangest men that ever nature made!" Wildness, lovesickness, and sodomy in Marlowe’s Edward II and Tamburlaine the Great
6. Murderous distraction and the downfall of the tyrant in Thomas Middleton’s The Lady’s Tragedy
William David Green
7. Sad stories of the death of kings: using despair to write history
Jeffrey S. Squires
Section Three: Performed madness
8. Tom a Bedlam’s masculine melancholy and King Lear’s missing mad song
9. "My honor's at the stake": anger, illness, and royal identity in All's Well that Ends Well
10. "Let hell make Crook’d my mind": kingship and madness in Richard III
11. Feigning sick: King Lear, Volpone, and the strategic performance of disability
12. Performing the "mad" prince: mental illness and princeliness in Hamlet
Conclusion: the future of mad kings
Christina Gutierrez-Dennehy is Assistant Professor of Performance and Theatre History at Northern Arizona University. Her research interests include the adaptation of early modern history plays for American political contexts. Her first book, Like a King: Casting Shakespeare’s Histories for Citizens and Subjects, was published in 2020.