Historicising the Human, Humanising the Historical: <i>I Henry IV</i>

Andy Mousley

in Re-Humanising Shakespeare

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2007 | ISBN: 9780748623181
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652211 | DOI:
Historicising the Human, Humanising the Historical: I Henry IV

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This chapter locates the humanising, dehumanising and rehumanising tendencies within the cultural historicisms that have dominated literary studies in recent years. It also describes Shakespeare's own treatment of history in I Henry IV (1596–7), focusing on Falstaff's humanising and Hal's dehumanising influence upon it. The example of Kastan demonstrates the point that there is a ‘residual’ literary humanism at work in forms of historicism avowedly sceptical of the existence of human nature. I Henry IV is concerned with what ‘weighs’ people down and gives them substance and solidity in a world that simultaneously promotes, or at least represents, a certain ‘lightness of being’. The idea of human dispositions being exiled from one place to another suggests a model of historical change that preserves a place for ‘ordinary’ human nature.

Keywords: humanising tendencies; dehumanising tendencies; rehumanising tendencies; cultural historicisms; Shakespeare; I Henry IV; Falstaff; Hal; literary humanism; human nature

Chapter.  8124 words. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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