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"O lawful let it be / That I have room ... to curse a while" : voicing the nation's conscience in female complaint in Richard III, King John and Henry VIII

Thorne, Alison (2010) "O lawful let it be / That I have room ... to curse a while" : voicing the nation's conscience in female complaint in Richard III, King John and Henry VIII. In: This England, That Shakespeare. Ashgate, pp. 105-126. ISBN 978-0-7546-6602-8

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Abstract

To understand what drives this female‐led quest for justice we must situate this as a response to the traumas of the recent past which still convulse the respective play‐worlds, whether the legacy of internecine strife from the War of the Roses that imprints itself upon the fractured court of Richard III, the unresolved struggle over the succession in King John, or the upheavals of the English Reformation in Henry VIII. Each of these plays evokes a profoundly dysfunctional society where the normal patrilineal structures of authority and legitimate succession have broken down, where oaths are routinely violated, theology is manipulated for political gain, and the law perverted to serve the will of individuals, instead of the bono publico. What is undeniably catastrophic for the body politic, though, proves oddly enabling for the plays' female protagonists.