Victoria's Reviews > The King's Two Bodies: A Study of Medieval Political Theology

The King's Two Bodies by Ernst H. Kantorowicz
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's review
Jan 19, 2010

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bookshelves: 2010, comps-medieval, history, non-fiction, history-medieval, history-europe
Read on January 19, 2010

I suspect I would have enjoyed this book a lot more had I not read The King's Body: Sacred Rituals of Power in Medieval and Early Modern Europe first, which is basically this book + 35 years + the cultural turn. This one is primarily based on a close reading of literary texts (primarily Shakespeare and Dante) and medieval jurisprudence (primarily Bracton and Justinian), and completely ignores descriptive texts in favour of a discussion about the ideologies of kingship. Discusses the changeovertime in perceptions of the king's two bodies, but does not at all discuss how this may have affected ruling strategies, or what the rituals of kingship may have meant to kings as individuals or to their subjects as either a corporate mass or individuals themselves. Clearly I should not be blaming Kantorowicz for not writing the book that I wanted to read, but one also wonders how Shakespeare's representation of Richard II can be expected to stand in for actual contemporary sources concerning Richard himself, or how Dante's depiction of "the king" as an embodiment of humanitas came to bear at all on the actual practice of kingship.
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