Authority and the Problem of Other Minds in Shakespeare’s ‘Henriad’
The critical tradition surrounding Shakespeare’s Henriad plays has long been divided along the fault line of Hal’s supposed princely virtues. Is Prince Hal a hero, resolving a crisis of authority at the upper reaches of government? Or is he something less than that, a Machiavellian scoundrel or a mouthpiece for nationalist rhetoric? Perhaps one reason critical consensus on these plays has been so elusive is that the plays’ action itself centers around an interpretive problem – the problem of other minds. This paper will discuss several ways that these plays signal a shift in political theory within sixteenth-century England, a shift in which the interpretation of other minds becomes an important tool of institutional policy. The advent of sovereignty informs this shift, and defines a broad culture of personal rule. New theories on the sovereignty of the king-in-parliament set the tone for an angst-ridden turn from a metaphysical model of authority to one more epistemically oriented. My paper discusses the ways this angst inscribes within the Henriad plays, particularly surrounding the person of Prince Hal.
Copyright (c) 2023 David Nathan Pensky
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.