chapter  1
41 Pages

Birth of a Nation from the Spirit of Tragedy: The Historical Sublime in Richard II

Like the play it treats, this chapter begins with a challenge. Richard II is commonly read as marking the passing of a medieval world and its immemorial theory of sacramental kingship.1 Subscribed to by Richard, this theory proves obsolescent and gives way in the course of the play to modern, Machiavellian ideas of rule embodied by Bolingbroke and associated with personal power, adeptness, and political cunning. The new world of Bolingbroke’s sober and practical realism stands in stark contrast to the extravagant, elegiac poeticism of Richard.