Formation of Nationhood

Cathy Shrank

in The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199566105
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 Formation of Nationhood

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This article explores the ways in which Shakespeare probes the nature of national identity in King John and The Merry Wives of Windsor, two plays that display revealingly different approaches to ‘England’. King John, a history play, examines the idea of England as a realm (a kingdom). The Merry Wives of Windsor, a comedy, considers it as a community of people who are bound by coresidence and language. The Englishness of both has also been singled out by critics and practitioners, often at moments of national stress (King John) or celebration (Merry Wives). The article ends with an afterword on Cymbeline and the way in which this Jacobean play engages with notions of Britain when the Union of the crowns under James I and VI in 1603 had brought into focus a new form of national identity.

Keywords: national identity; King John; England; Merry Wives; Englishness; Cymbeline

Article.  8177 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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