FAH-DENG Guest Lecture: “John Fletcher and William Shakespeare’s The Two Noble Kinsmen: Praise, Mourning and Consolation” by Prof. Donna B. Hamilton, University of Maryland, USA


14 Apr 2016





Following the death of Henry, Prince of Wales, and heir to English throne, more than 40 tributes appeared in print to memorialize him, many immediately in 1612 and others continuing in 1613. Among the writers were poets, writers of masques, dramatists, and musicians, who in one way or another were connected to the court, including Ben Jonson, John Donne, George Chapman, Francis Beaumont, Thomas Campion, Thomas Heywood, Cyril Tourneur, John Webster, Joshua Sylvester, and George Wither. This essay proposes that, in The Two Noble Kinsmen, William Shakespeare and John Fletcher joined others of their countrymen, including fellow poets and dramatists, in also providing an elegy for Prince Henry, this time written in dramatic form and played not at court but for the Blackfriars audience. Here Shakespeare and Fletcher wrote about two princes—cousins, not brothers—who are equally excellent in every way. The death of Arcite at the end of the play comes not as defeat or failure, but as the result of an accident, one that could have befallen anyone, even the other prince. The “hot horse, hot as fire” becomes agitated by a spark caused by his hooves on stone, rears up on his hind legs, and falls backward with his full weight on his rider Arcite, still on the horse’s back. These two details—the sustained representation of the equality of the two princes and the accident that ends one of their lives—anchor this reading of the play as elegy.



Donna B. Hamilton is a professor of English with a specialty in 16th- century English literature and Shakespeare. Her publications include Anthony Munday and the Catholics (20005); Shakespeare and the Politics of Protestant England (1992); Shakespeare and “The Tempest”: The Politics of Imitation (1990), as well as articles and editions on her scholarly specialties. She has a long career of teaching undergraduate and graduate students. Her Ph.D. in English is from the University of Wisconsin, and B.A. from St. Olaf College.

She served as Associate Provost and Dean for Undergraduate Studies at the University of Maryland, 2003-2015. From 1990-96, she served as associate dean in the College of Arts and Humanities, and 1998-2003 as Director of English Undergraduate Studies. For her work in undergraduate education, she was awarded the University of Maryland President’s Medal 2015.


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FAH - Department of English
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