Age of Absolutism essay

Better Essays
Max Mayer
HIS 102
Prof. McGowen
GTF Nick O’Neill
Feb 25, 2013
Absolutism
Most historians would argue that the years 1660 to 1789 could be summarized as an Age of Absolutism, the period from the Restoration in England and the personal rule of Louis XIV up to the beginning of the French Revolution. Our textbook defines absolutism as “a political arrangement in which one ruler possesses unrivaled power (Western Civilization pg 184). Rulers received their power directly from God – theory of divine right – claiming they were above the law. As a result, absolute monarchs were viewed differently among the individual’s social class; the Noble’s view differed from the every day commoner’s view.
Due to the divine right kingship beliefs monarchs receive an endless amount of power. Subjects believed God would only invest the ruler he appointed with powers that resembled his own, therefore any resistant to their monarch was forbidden. In Richard II, subjects look upon the Monarch of England as a godly figure. Throughout the play, King Richard and the Duchess make several references to “sacred blood;” a clear reference to Richard II being appointed by God (divinely appointed). An important nobleman, John of Gaunt, describes Richard II, “God’s is the quarrel; for God’s substitute/ His deputy anointed in his sight”(Shakespeare 13). Richard II is understood to be God’s presence on earth, once again supporting the theory of divine right. Subjects viewed god having two bodies, one present on earth and the other in heaven. The illusion of his holiness opened up many new avenues by which the king could influence his subjects. . Shakespeare displays this aspect of the king’s rule, “cousin, farewell; and, uncle, bid him so. Six years we banish him, and shall go”(Shakespeare 23). The king’s command becomes the law. Monarchs like Richard II did not have to obey the law of their kingdoms, nor could they be held legally accountable for their actions because they had no legal



Bibliography: McGowen, Randall. Western Civilization. Boston: Pearson Learning Solutions, 2012. Print. Shakespeare, William, and Frances E. Dolan. The Tragedy of King Richard the Second. New York, NY: Penguin, 2000. Print.

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