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Portrayals of Children in Shakespeare's Plays

The purpose of this research is to examine the portrayals of children in Shakespeare's Richard III, Coriolanus, and King John. The plan of the research will be to set forth the pattern of ideas in each of the plays as they relate to role of children in the action and then to discuss internal evidence of the plays that suggests how Shakespeare feels about children and the narrative and thematic uses to which he puts them in order to make clear the motivations and behavior of the various adult characters.

It is not difficult to identify Shakespeare's portrayals of children as symbols of innocence and trust, as well as of truths that either cannot be or deliberately are not articulated by the adults who surround them. This does not necessarily mean that they are wiser than adults or even aware that they are agents of narrative truth. However words they say can be interpreted as central to highlighting the psychoemotional and ethical content of the plays. In Richard III and King John, action and the fate of a variety of adult characters hinge on the fate of the children, even though their own behavior may be only indirectly implicated in the shape that the unfolding action takes. In Coriolanus, where the central character can be identified as both adult and child, the action of the adult as child is decisively implicated in his own fate as well as in the fate of others.

Because the action of each of the plays under consideration was defined by a historical subject, even to Shakespeare, it is convenient to consider them in historically chronological order. This makes Coriolanus the first focus of research. Shakespeare makes use of child characters on two levels in Coriolanus. Dominating much of the action is the relationship between Coriolanus and his mother Volumnia, whose forceful personality has very much shaped his. Indeed, the essentials of Coriolanus's personality are conveyed in the connection drawn between Coriolanus's public...

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Portrayals of Children in Shakespeare's Plays. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 22:58, June 24, 2019, from