History Plays and the Royal Succession

Paulina Kewes

in The Oxford Handbook of Holinshed's Chronicles

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199565757
Published online January 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

History Plays and the Royal Succession

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)



This chapter examines the early modern plays inspired by Holinshed's Chronicles, focusing on the earliest dramatizations of Holinshed for the public stage and their political resonance. Those originated with the Queen's Men, a company founded in 1583 by two Privy Councillors – Sir Francis Walsingham and the Earl of Leicester – which effectively popularized the history play in the period, bringing theatrical versions of the past to audiences in London and further afield. Shakespeare reworked no less than four of their scripts: the anonymous The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth (c.1586–7), The True Tragedie of Richard the Third (c.1590–1), The True Chronicle History of King Leir (c.1589–93), and The Troublesome Reign of John, King of England (1589–90), recently attributed to George Peele. These and other Queen's Men's offerings gave voice to the collective unease about the still unresolved succession.

Keywords: Chronicles; English history; Queen's Men; history plays; succession

Article.  8897 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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