Abstract

In this essay I argue that an evolutionary perspective can be crucial to our understanding of literary texts' emotional effects and help us to reconsider even a thoroughly discussed canonical piece of literature like William Shakespeare's Henry V. More specifically, such a perspective allows us to shed new light on the ideological dimension of this history play (and, by extension, of Shakespeare's histories in general). Drawing on evolutionary psychology's hypotheses about human emotions, I provide an alternative to existing critical analyses of the play's ideological dimension, which typically either see it as a perfect piece of propaganda or as subverted by its own inconsistencies, by arguing that in order to understand which ideological propositions are meaningful and acceptable (both onstage and off) we need to attend to the concrete cognitive-emotional reality of the evolved human psychology on which Shakespeare's choreography of emotions relies.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.