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Parallel Lives in Contrast: Scars in the Roman Republic vs. English Hereditary Monarchy

      Abstract

      Scars are a visible part of the political forum in the Roman Republic and in English hereditary monarchy. Coriolanus's scars are celebrated by Romans in Shakespeare's Coriolanus, while an absent record of King Richard II's skin ever breaking is part of the collective fiction of hereditary monarchy in Shakespeare's Richard II. For democracy in Rome, the symbology of scarring may be a practical element in ratifying the consulate: as a reminder of Rome's experience with the Tarquin Kings they had expelled and as a reminder to avoid the concentration of power in any one man. Consuls would serve one year only and there were two consuls each year; scars demonstrated that these consuls were not gods like kings wish to be. In parallel, scar-free skin preserves King Richard II's symbolism of an anointed monarch. Henry Bolingbroke and his son, Prince Hal and future Henry V, face the consequences of stripping the kingship of this aura, demonstrating that a king's skin can be penetrated on the battlefield by any other human being.
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