As I've been reminded by James Shapiro's excellent BBC4 documentary, Britain's most influential writer, national artistic icon and cultural export - not to mention literary Olympian - was effectively a servant of the Royal household, paid to entertain, not to say flatter, the King, which he did very effectively. I wonder how much this has influenced British history and helped keep the monarchy in place. I know the plays are ambiguous, ambivalent, questioning and quite clearly transcend their author's role as Royal lackey. But its still easy to construct a composite 'Shakespearean' view that works to support the British monarchy. Indeed, some of the speeches of the history plays are an accepted part of the royalist narrative. Had our foremost poet / dramatist been from the nineteenth century (being a post-revolutionary, more egalitarian era), as were Hugo or Baudelaire in France, or had he been an outsider in the way that, arguably, Dante was in Italy, or, say, Whitman and Dickinson were in the USA, how differently would British history have turned out? I'm not suggesting the the plays' investigations of power and politics are limited, or that, transferred to other cultures, they can't act as powerful challenges to authority; I'm just musing on their influence on Britain and its monarchy; could they be partly responsible for the fact the we're subjects, not citizens, and that our government and top layers of society are - even in the 21st century - stuffed with Lords, Ladies, Dames, Knights, Dukes and Princes?