In Mourning Before Death, I discuss the representation of maternal mourning
in King John, the Henry VI trilogy, Richard III, Titus Andronicus, and Coriolanus.
Primarily, I explore Shakespeare's expansion of maternal roles from his source texts,
especially their lamentations anticipating the death of sons in these plays.
Shakespeare emphasises the grief experienced by mothers which is largely absent in
the historical accounts on which the plays are based. My research addresses Phyllis
Rackin's definition of females as 'anti-historians' and examines how mothers in
mourning intrude into historical events and confront masculine authority.
This study focuses principally on Shakespeare's representation of maternal
authority in terms of mother-son relationships. The introduction identifies the
importance of'women's time' and physical expressions of maternal distress and the
dramatic conflicts these provoke. Chapter 2 examines how Constance's grief affects
the reaction of the audience to the power struggle in King John. Chapter 3 is
concerned with how Margaret's queenship in Henry VI disrupts the development of
English kingship and endangers the existing Lancastrian rule. Chapter 4 discusses
the psychological and physical meanings expressed through the use of the sitting
posture, a gesture which embodies the mothers' pain. Chapter 5 discusses
Shakespeare's exploration of political wildness and barbarism through his
representation of Tamora's tragic passion. Chapter 6 discusses Volumnia's
maternity and her appropriation of the Roman concept of honour. The conclusion
considers the strength of maternal authority and female power in Shakespeare's
representations of maternal mourning.