Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (MA)

Degree Level





Joseph Candido

Committee Member

William Quinn

Second Committee Member

Edward Minar


accidens, Heidegger, Occupatio, Phenomenology, Rhetoric, Richard II, Shakespeare


Recent scholarship of Shakespeare’s Richard II has been interested in or preoccupied with its historical relations. Particularly the plays association with the Essex Rising of 1601, and the censorship of the deposition scene, both of which seem to resonate for history with Elizabeth’s enigmatic comment expressing her identification with Shakespeare’s portrayal of Richard II.

This paper proposes to resolve the question of the play’s censorship by interpreting the deposition scene as a dramatization of transubstantiation, perhaps triggering Elizabethan censors.

Transubstantiation is the doctrine by which the Catholic Church interprets the Eucharist using the distinction between substance and accidens (eternal and actual). As a matter of interpretation, I will show how the substance / accidens difference functions in the deposition scene and in the play at large in conjunction with the rhetorical battle between Richard and Bolingbroke, and also in the technological imagery of Richard’s long speeches.

In this way, I advance on the deconstructive readings of Vance Adair and Jonathan Goldberg by explicating the phenomenal relations within the play in greater detail, specifically exploring the relationship of the doctrine of transubstantiation to Heidegger’s sense of ontological transition.

The argument proceeds by first identifying the dominant rhetorical form within the play as occupatio. I demonstrate how this rhetorical figure is deployed in the rhetoric of Richard II as a deferred manner of mediating the conflict over land rights. The “postal effects” described in other deconstructive readings are thereby brought into relation to the representation of transubstantiation and considered as part of Shakespeare’s dramatic technique.