Richard Reborn

Neomedievalism as Performance in Dragon Age: Origins (2009)


  • Caitlin Mahaffy Indiana University, Bloomington


In the first half of this essay, I suggest that Dragon Age: Origins presents similar neomedieval political maneuvering to that which appears in Shakespeare's plays; thereafter, as I transition into the second half of this article, I suggest that, in addition to being a work of neomedievalism that draws on Shakespeare's depictions of the Middle Ages, the game, due to its format, is ultimately also a form of neo-early modernism. As a roleplaying game, Dragon Age enables the player to, like an actor in an Elizabethan performance, engage with political intrigue in a neomedieval world that features echoes of Shakespeare's history plays'; these echoes invite consideration of which aspects of the bard's work remain relevant in the 21st century. Through analyzing this game, I ultimately suggest that roleplaying videogames with neomedieval content should be categorized as examples of both neo-early modernism and neomedievalism.

Author Biography

Caitlin Mahaffy, Indiana University, Bloomington

Caitlin Mahaffy is a Ph.D. candidate in English literature at Indiana University, Bloomington. She will defend her dissertation in May 2022. Her research proposes that English Renaissance literature presents a counter-tradition to humanism by exploring how early modern literary thinkers contradicted humanist philosophy in their work, especially in representations of plants and nonhuman animals. Other research interests include performance studies, game studies, and queer theory. Her work was previously published in The Ben Jonson Journal  and she is excited to contribute to this special issue of Borrowers and Lenders.