Part of the Early Modern Conversions speaker series
Shakespeare’s third installment of the Henry VI tetralogy questions the permanence and authenticity of conversion; conversions of kingship and political alliances prove disturbingly transitory, and moral authority changes hands with every moment of onstage trauma. This talk explores the medieval pageant theater staging that is deployed throughout Henry VI Part III, casting the history play in the religious language, and staging, of salvation history. I explore two such scenes, specifically the Fall of Lucifer in Act 1 Scene 1 and the Passion Sequence in Act 1 Scene 4, which illogically cast the Duke of York first as Lucifer, ascending the throne of God, and then as the suffering Christ. In these scenes, the illogically quick and somewhat inexplicable political conversions of two minor characters, Exeter and Northumberland, become models for the disorientation that results from these contradictory deployments of pageant staging. While this project is still a work in progress, I'm interested in the way that this interplay between the throne of god and throne of England contributes to a dialogue about sacred kingship that is made possible by the commandeering of pageant theater.
Sheila Coursey is a second year PhD student in English Language & Literature. She studies late medieval literature and drama, especially works that resist categorization as either medieval or early modern. She is currently meandering through several points of interest in her research, such as staging trauma and execution and the dialogue between "medieval" and "early modern" theater.
This talk is the first in a series presented by University of Michigan graduate students affiliated with the inter-institutional Early Modern Conversions initiative. Join us on March 19th for a presentation by Sarah Linwick, and on April 14th for a presentation by Lauren Eriks.