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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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Copious Sovereignty in the Henry IV Plays

Copious Sovereignty in the Henry IV Plays

(p.101) Chapter 4 Copious Sovereignty in the Henry IV Plays
Shakespeare's Body Parts

Huw Griffiths

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter demonstrates Shakespeare’s extensive use of the rhetorical figure of copia in the two Henry IV plays. Although copia, as the basis for written and verbal expression, is the archetypal figure of Renaissance eloquence, Shakespeare’s writing often pushes its use towards the outer limits, risking a dissipation, rather consolidation of meaning. In these two plays, the generative capacities of copia take a dark turn, linking images of diseased and damaged bodies to a centrifugal movement away from centres of sovereign power. This chapter argues that the dilatory nature of these two plays – in their language and in their proliferation of diseased body parts, as well as in their plot – underscores a representation of sovereignty that sees it as de-centred and dysfunctional.

Keywords:   Shakespeare, Sovereignty, Henry IV, part one, Henry IV, part one, The Body, Copia, Erasmus

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