“The King shall live without an heir if that which is lost be not found”: Child Loss, Grief, and Recovery in Shakespeare’s Late Romances
From Lady Macbeth’s “I have given suck, and know/ how tender ‘tis to love the babe this milks me” (1.7.54–5) and Macbeth’s realization of the significance of his “fruitless crown” (3.1.60) and “barren sceptre” (3.1.61), to King Lear’s loss of his daughter Cordelia, to the missing princes in Cymbeline and lost infant daughters Pericles and The Winter’s Tale, the importance of children and the pain of child loss pervades the plays of Shakespeare, as it did the lives of early modern parents. Kathryn Moncrief explores the significance (socially, economically, and personally) of child loss and grief in early modern England, particularly as recorded in diaries and poetry, in relation to the fantasy of recovery and restoration in Shakespeare’s late romances. The chapter suggests that the stage both rehearses mourning and, in staging grief, functions powerfully as place of recovery.
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