"King hereafter" : Macbeth and apocalypse in the Stuart discourse of sovereignty

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Title: "King hereafter" : Macbeth and apocalypse in the Stuart discourse of sovereignty
Author: Foran, Gregory Augustine
Abstract: “‘King Hereafter’” posits Shakespearean theater as a gateway between Reformation England’s suppressed desire to rid itself of monarchy and that desire’s expression in the 1649 execution of King Charles I . Specifically , I argue that Macbeth darkly manifests a latent Protestant fantasy in which the kings of the earth are toppled in a millenarian coup . Revolution - and Restoration -era writers John Milton and William Davenant attempt to liberate or further repress Macbeth’s apocalyptic republicanism when they invoke the play for their respective causes . Shakespeare’s text resists appropriation , however , pointing up the blind spots in whatever form of sovereignty it is enlisted to support . I first analyze Macbeth (1606 ) in its original historical context to show how it offers an immanent critique of James I’s prophetic persona . Macbeth’s tragic foreknowledge of his own supersession by Banquo’s heirs mirrors James’s paradoxical effort to ground his kingship on apocalyptic promises of the demise of earthly sovereignty . Shakespeare’s regicidal fantasy would be largely repressed into the English political unconscious during the pre -war years , until John Milton drew out the play’s antimonarchical subtext in The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates (1649 ) . Yet the specter of an undead King Charles , I argue in chapter two , haunts Milton just as Banquo’s ghost vexes Macbeth because Milton’s populist theory of legitimate rule continues to define sovereignty as the right to arbitrary violence . In chapter three , I show how Sir William Davenant’s Restoration revision of Macbeth (c .1664 ) reclaims the play for the Stuart regime by dramatizing Hobbes’s critique of prophetic enthusiasm . In enlarging upon Macduff’s insurgency against the tyrant Macbeth , however , Davenant merely displaces the rebellious potential of the rogue prophet onto the deciding sovereign citizen . Finally , my fourth chapter argues for Milton’s late -career embrace of Shakespearean equivocation as a tool of liberty in Samson Agonistes (1671 ) . Samson’s death “self -killed” and “immixed” among his foes in a scene of apocalyptic destruction challenges the Hobbesian emphasis on self -preservation and the hierarchical structures on which sovereignty itself depends for coherence . Milton’s mature eschatological vision of the end of sovereignty coincides with his artistic acceptance of the semantic and generic ambiguities of Shakespearean drama .
URI: http : / /hdl .handle .net /2152 /ETD -UT -2010 -05 -976
Date: 2010-10-01

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"King hereafter" : Macbeth and apocalypse in the Stuart discourse of sovereignty. Doctoral dissertation, University of Texas at Austin. Available electronically from http : / /hdl .handle .net /2152 /ETD -UT -2010 -05 -976 .

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