The Tragedy of Succession: Shakespeare in History


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project engages Shakespearean drama in the context of the central political issue of early modern England—the theory and practice of monarchical succession. It argues that Shakespearean tragedy can be understood as a theatrical response to, and intervention in, the anxieties and conflicts attending contemporary struggles to define the theory as well as the outcome of royal succession.

The heart of this project is a study of the tragedies written between 1599-1607—especially Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth—as representations of succession crises of the family and of the state. Succession is an inherently tragic trope, for succession requires death; it is a process premised on the necessity of the death of the father, real or symbolic.