King Arthur’s “Lurking Carcass” and the English Nation: Embodying the State on Stage and Page in The Misfortunes of Arthur and A Mirror for Magistrates

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Abstract

In Thomas Hughes’s 1588 drama The Misfortunes of Arthur, King Arthur desires his “carcasse” to “lurke” in obscurity after his death, so that his missing body may inspire future generations with promises of his glorious return. In a comparable passage in Richard Niccols’s 1610 edition of the Mirror for Magistrates, Arthur tells the reader that he hopes his fame will continue to inspire when his limbs lie “rapt in mould.” The two texts’ emphasis on the importance of the sovereign’s physical body to his legacy reinforces Claire McEachern’s suggestion in The Poetics of English Nationhood that “embodied, the state becomes familiar” and facilitates subjects’ desire for inclusion in the nation. In this article I demonstrate how the state became familiar via the Arthurian body—in performance and especially in print—as that body spoke directly to the concerns of all subjects and readers who constituted the English nation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEnglish Studies
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • embodied states
  • English nation
  • King Arthur
  • Mirror for Magistrates
  • Misfortunes of Arthur
  • print culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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