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Shakespeare's Body PartsFiguring Sovereignty in the History Plays$
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Huw Griffiths

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781474448703

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474448703.001.0001

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Prosthetic Hands in King John

Prosthetic Hands in King John

(p.75) Chapter 3 Prosthetic Hands in King John
Shakespeare's Body Parts

Huw Griffiths

Edinburgh University Press

The word “hand” occurs more times in King John than in any other Shakespeare play. This is no accident. This play imagines sovereign agency through forms of prosthesis, and figures sovereignty through synecdoche: parts standing in for wholes. The word “hand” comes to the fore at moments in the play where the transactional nature of sovereign power is being accentuated: in John’s uncomfortable second coronation and, most concentratedly, in the peculiar circumstances of Prince Arthur’s death, a death that is willed by many but enacted by none. In the disputes between King John and Hubert over their relative responsibility, the word “hand” becomes a focus for a drawn-out meditation on the extent to which sovereign power is alienable or always located in the person of the King himself.

Keywords:   Shakespeare, Sovereignty, King John, The Body, The Hand, Prosthesis, Thomas Hobbes

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