Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This thesis attempts to demonstrate that Shakespeare's conceptions of the future develop in complexity and coherence in the tetralogies and are important to readings of the plays as an indication of his developing sense of historical change. I approach the plays from a modified cultural materialist viewpoint. This critical approach offers useful presuppositions and a strategy for analysis of characterization and ideological issues that assist in understanding how the future takes shape in the plays.;Shakespeare includes a number of factors other than characterization and ideological issues that help to shape the future--fate, Providence, prophecies, dreams, and images. His concepts of the future grow from simple observations of how visions of the future went wrong and why to more complex observations of how visions of the future went right and why. I note perceived implications in the texts for Shakespeare's own historical context.;There are seven conclusions. First, history is the basis for an exploration of both the future and change. Second, the plays incorporate portents, omens, prophecies, and dreams, as forms of predestined future. These forms of the future are ultimately unsatisfying answers to the issue of what brings about political change but are among the explanations that are given in a number of the plays. Third, the dynamics of change in the plays about Henry VI, Richard II, Henry IV, and Henry V develop views of the failed future. Fourth, the construction of Richard III as a stage Machiavellian demonstrates a misdirected future deriving from an ideology of individualism. Fifth, this study identifies a negative future related to the reign of Henry IV in the plays. Henry, as subject, is characterized as achieving the crown through Machiavellian practices, but, as a king, unable to sustain a unified and unifying vision. The sixth conclusion is that even the ideal of a successful future in a 'true' Machiavellian prince and king as depicted in certain subject-images of Henry V (as "madcap" prince and "soldier-king") is subverted by the play's closing reference to the forthcoming reign of Henry VI. The final conclusion focuses on the first six conclusions that demonstrate a growth in complexity of ideas about the future and point to a developing sense of historical change in the tetralogies.



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