Shakespeare's history plays are central to his dramatic achievement. In recent years they have become more widely studied than ever, stimulating intensely contested interpretations, due to their relevance to central contemporary issues such as English, national identities and gender roles.
Interpretations of the history plays have been transformed since the 1980s by new theoretically-informed critical approaches. Movements such as New Historicism and cultural materialism, as well as psychoanalytical and post-colonial approaches, have swept away the humanist consensus of the mid-twentieth century with its largely conservative view of the plays.
The last decade has seen an emergence of feminist and gender-based readings of plays which were once thought overwhelmingly masculine in their concerns. This book provides an up-to-date critical anthology representing the best work from each of the modern theoretical perspectives. The introduction outlines the changing debate in an area which is now one of the liveliest in Shakespearean criticism.
Introduction 1. Topical ideology: Witches, Amazons and Shakespeare's Joan of Arc Gabriele Bernhard Jackson 2. A mingled yarn: Shakespeare and the cloth workers Richard Wilson 3. Descanting on deformity: Richard III and the shape of history Marjorie Garber 4. Stages of history: Ideological conflict, Alternative plots Phyllis Rackin 5. Engendering a nation: Richard II Jean E. Howard and Phyllis Rackin 6. Prince Hal's Falstaff: Positioning psychoanalysis and the female reproductive body Valerie Traub 7. Carnival and history: Henry IV Graham Holderness 8. The future of history: 1 and 2 Henry IV Kiernan Ryan 9. A tale of two branaghs: Henry V, Ideology and the Mekong Agincourt Chris Fitter 10. Back by popular demand: The two versions of Henry V Annabel Patterson 11. 'Wildehirissheman': Colonialist representations in Shakespeare's Henry V David J. Baker 12: History and ideology, masculinity and miscegenation: The instance of Henry V Alan Sinfield and Jonathan Dollimore