Shakespeare’s second history tetralogy has long been recognised as centring round Prince Hal’s legendary coming of age. In the two parts of Henry IV, after all, Shakespeare repeatedly stages the prince’s surprising reformation from dissolute youngster to resolute adult ruler of the realm. The social and specifically age-political dimension of this reformation, however, has not been traced in much detail by scholars and neither have the various invocations of early modern age roles that prepare the ground for it in the first play of the Henriad. I aim to demonstrate that already the royal protagonist of Richard II is not only denounced as a mere ‘landlord of the realm’ by his opponents, but also presented as woefully immature compared to his rival Bolingbroke. After briefly sketching my larger point about the Henriad as a whole, this lecture will focus predominantly on Richard’s age-related shortcomings and thereby draw attention to Shakespeare’s keen awareness of contemporary age politics.
Rudolph Glitz is a Universitair Docent in English Literature and Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Amsterdam, whose staff he joined after taking his graduate degrees at Cambridge (MPhil in European Literature) and Oxford (MSt and DPhil in English Literature) and teaching British Studies at Harlaxton College, the British Campus of the University of Evansville. His monograph Writing the Victorians: The Early Twentieth-Century Family Saga was published in 2009 with the Universitaetsverlag Winter (Heidelberg). He has published articles on an eclectic range of topics, including the Computer Game Civilization and contemporary Science Fiction media. Over the last few years, however, he has been preoccupied with a long-term research project on age-group and generation conflicts in literature – ranging from Shakespeare to the present day – of which the findings presented in this lecture form a part.