My project analyses theologically-inflected structures of power in Shakespeare’s King Lear, contributing to a considerable field of scholarship. By employing Giorgio Agamben’s political theory (1996-2016), which demonstrates the contemporary resonance of Renaissance legal structures, I will therefore seek to assess Shakespeare’s depiction of law from a new perspective that is both attentive to its historicity and to its modern philosophical, political, and theatrical implications.
My reading will also draw upon plays from Shakespeare's wider career and repertoire of genres. Chapters will be allocated according to the exemplary figures and legal problems addressed. Each chapter therefore contains readings of relevant historical documents (e.g. Plowden, 1571), the wider dramatic context, and theoretical concerns. My historically sensitive analysis will approach the play-texts as both objects for performance and composite literary texts. The thesis will also reflect the extensive performance history of King Lear, as well as engaging critically with the numerous adaptations it has spawned, including Nahum Tate's successful stage-play.