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Shannon Gonzenbach

This research project, entitled The Rise of the Red Dragon: Tudor and Stuart Arthurian Imperialism, focuses on the political use of King Arthur throughout the Tudor and Stuart monarchies in England and examines how Henry VII’s use of the legendary king had long term consequences on the creation of what we now know as the United Kingdom. While there is a long history of English political use of the King Arthur narrative, which scholars often focus on, this research argues Henry VII’s rise to power in 1485 is unique in how his use of King Arthur became interconnected with a changing sense of what it was to be “English,” as seen through the rising status of the English language and changing culture of the Renaissance, or early modern period. This project begins in Chapter one by tracing the Angevin and later Plantagenet kings’ political uses of King Arthur in order to demonstrate the significance in the historical and cultural context around Henry VII’s claim to the legendary King’s bloodline, as well as how this aided his campaign for the English throne. The subsequent chapters of this project address the continued legacy of the developing concept of “Englishness” which began under Henry VII and its relationship to King Arthur as a political symbol through dramatic works from the late 1500s to early 1700s. This research brings focus to a number of neglected dramatic works in Arthurian scholarship and early modern scholarship, as well as lays a foundation for exploring the roles in how literary narratives participate in the shaping of community identities. The legend of King Arthur became ingrained in English culture through its many forms of narratives across history and lends a power behind the claim of different English monarchs to their rights to reign over all of Britain. The Tudors began a new use of the mythic narrative and Arthurian historicity and twelfth century prophetic narratives were being used in new forms, across popular English stages.