Absolutist decision and the two bodies of the king
Taking up the discussion of the influence of Scottish political events on English drama, this chapter focuses on a play traditionally seen to be a dramatic commentary on the succession anxiety surrounding Mary Stuart’s presence in England. However, this chapter attempts to move beyond topical political references, in order to analyze Gorboduc as the transitional play that not only broaches the issue of usurpation for the first time on the English stage, but also depicts regicide at the hands of rebelling subjects, all the while making oblique but identifiable references to the threat of usurpation emanating from Scotland. The overlap between monarchical absolutism and tyranny underpins the action in this play. Invoking Ernst Kantorowicz’s theorization of the ‘king’s two bodies’ and Carl Schmitt’s theory of sovereignty as a critical framework, this chapter examines the way in which the play problematizes the relation of sovereign power to the person of the bearer, and thus problematizes the notion of monarchical absolutism itself.
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