What Makes a King: Power and Legitimacy in Shakespeare’s Richard II and King Henry IV, Parts One and Two


Course Description

Three of Shakespeare’s most beloved histories are referred to by Northrop Frye as the Bolingbroke plays: Richard II and Henry IV, Parts One and Two. Although Bolingbroke (later King Henry IV) is at the centre of the action in these plays, he fades into the background alongside such striking characters as Richard II, a failed king but masterful poet; Falstaff, the apolitical and amoral wit; Hotspur, the man of action; and Hal, the prodigal son in whose hands lies the fate of the king’s legacy.

What do Shakespeare’s tales of Bolingbroke’s usurpation of the crown and his attempts to secure the English nation teach us about power and politics in late medieval and Renaissance Britain? What constitutes a successful monarch and what is his (or her, in the case of the reigning Elizabeth) role in embodying the nation as a whole? What options are presented to Prince Hal as he contemplates his future and his duties to his father and his country?

In addition to the three plays, we will read interpretations by Northrop Frye, Harold Bloom, and others.

Books to purchase (will be available at Argo Bookshop):

    • Henry IV Part 1 (Pelican edition recommended)
    • Richard II (Pelican edition recommended)

Please note that this course has a maximum enrollment of 14 students.

Priority is given to students who pay upon registration.

For fully registered courses, a waiting list will be created. Should vacancies develop, those on the waiting list will be contacted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Please note that we do not allow participants to audit courses for free.

Course Details

First Session: Monday 12 April 2021

Course Length: 6 weeks, Mondays, 1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. (starting 12 April)

Discussion Team: Carol Fiedler, Bill Gilsdorf, Patricia Sikender

Degree Credit: Half credit

Course Fees: 

$120.00 (standard tuition) 

$80.00 (promotion for new students)

Administrative Fee:



$145.00 (standard tuition)

$105.00 (promotion for new students)


Course fees are refundable in full before the second session. After the second session, a fee of $50 for the withdrawal will be applied. Refunds will not be issued after the third session. Please note that non-attendance does not constitute a withdrawal.

Students pursuing studies for credit are encouraged to consult with their advisers as they register for courses.

Course leaders, and students wishing to use credit vouchers, should call (514) 935-9585 to pay by phone or to schedule an appointment to pay in person.

If you are a RETURNING student

If you are NEW to TMI

Questions? Stuck? Give us a call at (514) 935-9585
or email us at info@thomasmore.qc.ca