This article studies ‘King and Country: Shakespeare’s Great Cycle of Kings’, the RSC’s recent four-play Henriad directed by Gregory Doran and performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in April 2016. In keeping with Doran’s directorial style, the cycle was conspicuously lean on concept, offering few moments of design-driven staging and instead spotlighting character and ensemble acting. The cycle thus presents an opportunity for exploring some of the claims of character criticism, which has recently made something of a comeback in Shakespeare studies. Combining the perspectives of performance theorists, theatre practitioners and literary scholars, character criticism describes dramatic character as a phenomenon constituted through the cooperation of text and body. Thinking about Doran’s Henriad in these terms not only highlights the achievements and flaws of ‘King and Country’ but discloses Shakespeare’s diverse mechanisms for constructing theatrical kings.
Alice Dailey is Associate Professor of English and Anne Quinn Welsh Faculty Fellow in Honors at Villanova University. She is author of The English Martyr from Reformation to Revolution (Notre Dame, 2012) and has published articles on a range of literary, dramatic and material artefacts, including the skeleton of King Richard III, the RSC’s complete Histories cycle, Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More, and the self-destroying martyr sculptures of Michael Landy. Her current project is a book on Shakespeare’s histories titled How to Do Things with Dead People: Temporal Conjecture and the Shakespearean History Play.