Nicole Mennell

University of Sussex

Project Title: Shakespeare’s Political Animals

My project explores the connections made between figures of sovereignty and animals in early modern texts. In order to direct the study, the thesis focuses on how animal imagery is used to signify and complicate rulers and systems of governance in Shakespeare’s plays, with reference to the wider culture of representation, for example, in beast fables, natural history, political treatises and hunting and husbandry manuals. The thesis aims to advance the field through a theoretical approach, bringing Jacques Derrida’s hypothesis, as recounted in his collection of seminars, The Beast and The Sovereign, to bear on the analysis of the plays. Through a historical and philosophical exploration of the relationship sovereigns, and other political figures, share with animals in early modern drama, the study aims to answer important questions about what it meant to be human in the early modern period, the anxieties regarding the permeable boundaries between man and beast, and the concerns of tyranny and its effect on humanity.

Supervised by Professor Andrew Hadfield.

About me

After a year studying Art and Design at the London College of Fashion, I completed my BA in English Literature and my MA in Renaissance and Early Modern Studies at Queen Mary, University of London.

Research Interests

I am primarily interested in the ways in which animals were used to symbolise the power and status of political leaders both figuratively and literally in the early modern period and how this reliance conversely serves to undermine anthropocentrism. In relation to this my research interests include the following: hunting and hawking; the fur trade and sumptuary laws; royal menageries; pet keeping; heraldry; breeding practices; and bear baiting.

Please contact me at

Twitter @NicoleMennell