Some of the effects of time discussed in the last chapter are predictable: the changing seasons and the seven ages of man are part of a familiar, repeated pattern of existence. But the transformations which states and societies undergo, especially the fluctuations of war and the rise and fall of princes, seem to happen quite arbitrarily, and when they occur their victims naturally attempt to find a cause for them. Shakespeare’s characters ascribe such events, depending on their beliefs, either to divine providence or to fortune or to the actions of men. The history plays are, in part, an analysis of the causes of social and political crisis, and the analysis begins in the first lines of the First Part of Henry VI.
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