This essay surveys William Shakespeare’s Richard III in terms of the early modern construction of the north-south divide. Both modern and early modern historians view King Richard III as “England’s first and only northerner king,” and during his short-lived reign the north enjoyed a time of “colonialist dominion over the South.” In Richard III, Shakespeare engages directly with this form of colonial domination. Shakespeare’s depiction of Richard III’s rule projects a fear of the civilized south being colonized by the barbarous, impoverished, and militaristic north; Richard III as an “elvish-marked, abortive, rooting hog” might illustrate southern antipathy toward this northerner king. Yet Shakespeare’s portrayal of him is more complicated, and Richard III shows how early modern England ambiguously defined the relations between the north and the south. In Shakespeare’s play, Richard is not fully northern and the north’s attitude toward him is duplicitous at best. Toward the end of the narrative, Richard is betrayed and abandoned by the northern lords, while Henry Tudor finally achieves the crown by winning over the north. In Richard III, Shakespeare attempts to show how much the English crown was dependent upon the north and how Tudor history was inseparably articulated with northern English history by questioning the providential rise of the Tudor dynasty.


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pp. 451-477
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