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Being and Having in Shakespeare$
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Katharine Eisaman Maus

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199698004

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199698004.001.0001

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Being and Having in Richard II

Being and Having in Richard II

(p.1) 1 Being and Having in Richard II
Being and Having in Shakespeare

Katharine Eisaman Maus

Oxford University Press

The first part of this chapter considers the problems of discussing property issues in Shakespearean drama and in literature more generally. It looks briefly at recent “materialist” work on Shakespeare and Renaissance culture, to which this book is indebted although it dissents from the usual “materialist” premises and conclusions. The philosophical and religious tradition as Shakespeare inherits it is a contradictory one, and the conceptualization of property in early modern England is complicated in ways not often acknowledged by literary critics. Shakespeare, the book will argue, is less interested in the ins and outs of early modern property law than he is in the general problems for human relations posed by the power over resources: problems of inheritance, of consumption, of distribution. The chapter proceeds to a reading of Richard II, claiming that sovereignty in the play is imagined in terms of landholding, but showing that dramatic character in the play is produced not in terms of possession but of dispossession.

Keywords:   materialist criticism, property law, Richard II, sovereignty, landholding, tragic character

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