Giddy Lies the Head that Wears the Crown: Apoplexy and Political Spectacle in 2 Henry IV

Pauline Ellen Reid


Henry IV's apoplexy is an unusual moment of diagnosis in Shakespeare's histories. This paper analyzes the specific conditions of Henry IV's apoplexy in 2 Henry IV: as a corporeal disease, as a political metaphor, and as a metatheatrical commentary on the conditions of performative spectacle. Henry IV's apoplexy reveals the precarious context of the imperial Tudor monarchy, particularly in terms of Elizabeth's ambiguous succession and the performative nature of her reign. Through apoplexy, 2 Henry IV overturns political hierarchies and portrays the constructed nature of political performance as a "paper crown."


Shakespeare; early modern body; metatheatrics

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