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Stage, Stake, and ScaffoldHumans and Animals in Shakespeare's Theatre$
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Andreas Höfele

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199567645

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199567645.001.0001

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A Kingdom for a Scaffold

A Kingdom for a Scaffold

(p.68) 2 A Kingdom for a Scaffold
Stage, Stake, and Scaffold

Andreas Höfele

Oxford University Press

Like the playhouse and the baiting ring, the traitors’ heads displayed on London Bridge were a tourist attraction noted in many an early modern travel diary. Twin platforms of privileged visibility, the public stage and the scaffold of execution cause acute anxiety of exposure in King James I’s Basilikon Doron. Their similarity also underlies the lethal histrionics of Richard Gloucester, Shakespeare’s first full-fledged stage villain, a prototype for the more complex study of villainy in Macbeth. A man of multiple personalities, Richard branches out into multiple animal personae as well, and this protean mutability makes him, for all his distortion, the perfect mirror for majesty. His hamming it up, as it were, out-monstering his own monstrosity, reveals kingship as the precarious theatricality of ‘one set on a skaffold, whose smallest actions and gestures, all the people gazingly doe behold.’ (James I)

Keywords:   public execution, kingship, privileged visibility, stage villain, monstrosity, Shakespeare, Henry VI plays, Shakespeare, Richard III, James I, Basilikon Doron

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