Date of Award

Spring 1973

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts




This is a study of the development of the mind of William Shakespeare as it relates to justice which tries to show how certain of Shakespeare's beliefs and theories, those shared by most of his con­ temporaries, were altered in the course of that development. The plays chosen for this treatment of the mind of Shakespeare -- the historically related cycle of Richard II, Henry IV (I and II), Henry V, Henry VI (I, II, and III), and Richard III -- show the ideas in question in greater abundance than any other of Shakespeare's plays. The historical grouping consists of Richard II through Richard III and acts as one unit which should not be broken for the purposes of the first part of this thesis. The rigid ideas seen in those works of medieval history become tempered and seasoned with Renaissance ideas of mercy, forgiveness, and rehabilitation. These first become evident in Richard II (considered apart from the historical cycle) which is used here in closer study to bridge the ideological gulf between the previously mentioned works of the young Shakespeare and the works more in the Renaissance tradition -- The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, and The Tempest -- of the more mature playwright.