“A Kyng That Ruled All By Lust”: Richard II in Elizabethan Literature

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Abstract

Since the earliest performances of Shakespeare’s Richard II, parallels between its tragic protagonist and Elizabeth I have not gone unnoticed – not least by Elizabeth herself. This essay attempts to move beyond that parallel, examining its implications not only for readings of Shakespeare’s play or Elizabethan imaginings of the queen, but also to the relationship of sexuality and historiography in early modern writing. Richard and Elizabeth both embody a transgressive femininity that exposes, rather than contradicts, the gender norms of monarchy; this exposure becomes, in Elizabethan historical writing, inextricable from the crisis of legitimacy at the heart of Tudor dynastic narratives.

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