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Shakespeare's Fugitive Politics$
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Thomas P. Anderson

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780748697342

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748697342.001.0001

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Sovereignty’s Scribbled form in King John

Sovereignty’s Scribbled form in King John

Chapter:
(p.99) Chapter 4 Sovereignty’s Scribbled form in King John
Source:
Shakespeare's Fugitive Politics
Author(s):

Thomas P. Anderson

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748697342.003.0004

This chapter explores a concept of the nation-state defined in terms of leagues, friendships, and amity between England and France in King John. The play consistently describes the evolving relationship between nations in terms of friendship and hospitality. Constance’s desperate question, ‘France friend with England! What becomes of me?’ (2.2.35) after the rival nations become momentary allies, captures the challenge that national sovereignty poses to a subject’s liberty. In its depiction of this geo-political friendship, King John interrogates the powerful claims of an emerging bureaucratic network of authority exemplified by the Bastard’s relationship with what the play calls ‘borrowed majesty’ (1.1.4) and ‘perjured kings’ (3.1.33). In arguing that King John makes explicit the political condition of friendship in depicting rival nation-states, the chapter makes the case that the Bastard’s new sovereign relationship radically redefines a political subject as a bawd or broker in a bureaucratic network with radical, albeit unrealized, political potential. The Bastard—a bureaucrat with royal blood—is well aware that his fugitive survival and political efficacy are contingent on how he responds to the unintended contours of the sovereign decision, to its collateral effects that exceed ordered and absolute power, in other words, to that which allows him to act legitimately, with bureaucratic sovereignty, both inside and outside of the law.

Keywords:   hospitality, sovereign friendship, bureaucracy, bastardy, Bastard, nation-state, France, Constance, women in history plays

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