Being and Having in Shakespeare

Katharine Eisaman Maus, Being and Having in Shakespeare (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013)

Summary from the Publisher:

What is the relation between who a person is, and what he or she has? A number of Shakespeare’s plays engage with this question, elaborating a “poetics of property” centering on questions of authority and entitlement, of inheritance and prodigality, of the different opportunities afforded by access to land and to chattel property. Richard II and the Henry IV plays construe sovereignty as a form of property right, largely construing imperium, or the authority over persons in a polity, as a form of dominium, the authority of the property-holder. Nonetheless, what property means changes considerably from Richard’s reign to Henry’s, as the imagined world of the plays is reconfigured to include an urban economy of chattel consumables. The Merchant of Venice, written between Richard II and 1 Henry IV, reimagines, in comic terms, some of the same issues broached in the history plays. It focuses in particular on the problem of the daughter’s inheritance and on the different property obligations among friends, business associates, and spouses. In the figure of the “vagabond king,” theoretically entitled but actually dispossessed, 2 Henry VI and King Lear both coordinate problems of entitlement with conundrums about distributive justice, raising fundamental questions about property relations and social organization.

Table of Contents:

Being and Having in Richard II
Prodigal Princes: Land and Chattels in the Second Tetralogy
Heirs and Affines in The Merchant of Venice
The Properties of Friendship in The Merchant of Venice
Vagabond Kings: Entitlement and Distribution in Henry VI and King Lear

Oxford University Press
Google Books