Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program




Major Professor

Loomis, Catherine;

Second Advisor

Bryant, Earle

Third Advisor

Krantz, Susan


As Shakespeare composed the three history plays discussed here, English culture faced a shift in its dominant belief system from an animistic perspective that valued nature and superstition to a humanistic perspective based on reason and personal relationships. In Richard II, Shakespeare creates characters that fall on either side of this divide, and he shows humanism triumph over animism when Henry deposes Richard. In 1 Henry IV, Shakespeare shows that this binary is not so easily reconciled, and Hal (the future Henry V) creates a dual nature that subsumes the tenets of both animism and humanism. After the death of his father and his rejection of Falstaff in 2 Henry IV, Hal demonstrates that the only solution to the humanism/animism debate is to entirely reject the tenets of both and, instead, blend the two viewpoints together. The result is a newly formed conception of kingship and a hero-king.


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