This essay argues that in spite of a recent boom in scholarship on sovereignty, a particular political unit has gone unnoticed: the child and the sovereign. Although Shakespeare’s frequent recourse to child figures in his poems and plays has often been recognized, sovereignty seems to be an element missing from an expanding scholarly literature on the early modern child. Shakespeare critics often attend to the vulnerable personal bodies of children. But it is to the political bodies of children we must attend. Here I discuss what it might be to conceive of the child’s two bodies and how the body political of Shakespeare’s child figures focuses attention on succession and perpetuity. Macbeth, I argue, refracts the succession controversies that afflicted the transfer of rule from Elizabeth to James. Elizabeth, the barren queen, and James, the cradle king, made obvious how the child’s body threatens to displace the king’s. Shakespeare’s plays contribute to an attempt to imagine and comprehend political succession as a subset of sovereignty’s dominion over time.What troubles that dominion is the figure of the child who fails to ensure the “self-evidence” of sovereignty by generation.


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pp. 811-839
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