Shakespeare and the Social Devaluation of the Horse

  • Bruce Boehrer
Part of the Early Modern Cultural Studies book series (EMCSS)


This chapter pursues a simple argument: that Shakespeare’s plays enact a downward displacement of the horse’s character as a social signifier. I believe that this displacement, in turn, may be loosely correlated to the decline of the armigerous gentry’s identity as a military class, which decline is closely mirrored by the horse’s own emerging obsolescence as an instrument of warfare in early modern England. In other words, Shakespeare associates the horse preeminently with chivalry, and—as Ralph Berry has argued—he presents chivalry primarily as “a defunct ideology.”1


Conspicuous Consumption Henry Versus Social Devaluation Military Prowess Military Class 
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© Karen Raber and Treva J. Tucker 2005

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  • Bruce Boehrer

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