"Oft Have I Heard of Sanctuary Men": Fictions of Refuge in Early Shakespeare

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"Oft Have I Heard of Sanctuary Men": Fictions of Refuge in Early Shakespeare

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Title: "Oft Have I Heard of Sanctuary Men": Fictions of Refuge in Early Shakespeare
Author: Woodring, Benjamin Michael
Citation: Woodring, Benjamin Michael. 2014. "Oft Have I Heard of Sanctuary Men": Fictions of Refuge in Early Shakespeare. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This study weaves together several strands of inquiry. On the level of dramatic analysis, I look to understand how "sanctuary" spaces operate in Shakespeare's early plays and the ways in which such zones relate to genre. In tragedy, there is no escape valve, no place for retreat. The aesthetic depends on the increasing pressure and the gradual winnowing of options and possibilities. I analyze Richard III (both Thomas More's and Shakespeare's) as the preeminent example of sanctuary-breaking and generic claustrophobia. In Shakespearean comedy, on the other hand, sanctuaries allow action to continue, brokering resolutions while avoiding tragic termination. In this vein I consider The Comedy of Errors and As You Like It. The second strand is historical: I attempt to situate the plays within the larger context of England’s immunity spaces in their twilight. I document the upheaval and confusion regarding refuge sites following the Reformation and the dissolution of the monasteries, contending that the conflicting swirl of concepts surrounding Elizabethan sanctuary – as something both holy and debauched – made it ripe for Shakespeare’s fascination. Finally, in the epilogue I offer a more theoretical reading of sanctuary practices over time, arguing that asylum is often a tool for young or relatively unstable governments to get subjects to present themselves. In this view, sanctuaries are not exceptional spaces outside diurnal affairs and authority, but rather the precise cohesive principle that keeps a fledgling jurisdictional structure intact. Nevertheless, I argue that alternative modes of access to the tools of the administrative culture within which one is unavoidably entrenched may ultimately be more profound than the utopian wish for escape.
Terms of Use: This article is made available under the terms and conditions applicable to Other Posted Material, as set forth at http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:dash.current.terms-of-use#LAA
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:12274302
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