'I cannot speak your England': French Women in King John and Henry V

Elizabeth Pentland


This essay examines the representation of French women in two of Shakespeare's history plays, King John and Henry V. French women appear more often in Shakespeare's plays than women of any other European nationality. They also hold some of the largest speaking parts for women in his plays. Comparing the women of King John and Henry V to Shakespeare's earliest depictions of French women, in the Henry VI plays, the essay argues that French women were subject to a range of representations across the history plays. Characters like Queen Margaret, Constance of Brittany, and Katherine of France are either domesticated or estranged by Shakespeare according to a complex set of cultural negotiations that operate both within and beyond their respective plays.


Shakespeare, women, history plays, France

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