Lecture 14: Henry V (2)
Lecture 14: Henry V (2) ENG 209
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This 4 page Study Guide was uploaded by Miranda Browning on Thursday October 13, 2016. The Study Guide belongs to ENG 209 at North Carolina State University taught by William Shaw in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 11 views. For similar materials see Intro to Shakespeare in English at North Carolina State University.
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Date Created: 10/13/16
Lecture 14: Henry V (2) In the previous lecture, we look at the way Shakespeare develops Henry as the mere of all Christian Kings. We also see Henry developed at the lion, the fox, and the pelican—in a way to develop and present him in the way people had seen him in the history books and through legend. But, on the other hand, we may look at Henry V in a different light. Such that the idea of mirror can be a reflection of the way Kings and rulers really are. So, we begin to look at some of the ways in which Henry V may be developed as a subversive play. Political Uses of Political Texts—We look at and compare Shakespeare’s work of Henry V to other pieces, political texts, and productions throughout history. Shakespeare’s True Text & Views (1623 Folio) o The folio edition was a large format which would compare to the completed work of Shakespeare’s editions that are so commonly used in college classrooms and would include all 37 plays and sonnets. Shakespeare vs. Authorities (1600 Quarto) o Quarto edition is like a one volume edition, or a short story version. o In 1600—All five Choruses and the final Epilogue, with its allusion to Essex’s anticipated return from Ireland, were deleted. And the Bishops’ cynical discussion of their motivation for war and how they planned to distract the House of Commons from their plan to redeem ecclesiastical property was deleted. The Hostess’ claim in Act 2, Scene 1 that Falstaff is dying because “the King has killed his heart” was deleted. Almost all of the Harfleur episode, including the threats upon the besieged citizens, and much of the material in the scene before the battle of Agincourt, including Henry’s soliloquy on the hardships of Kingship were deleted. In addition, all of Burgundy’s speech on the damages suffered by the French in the war and much of the wooing scene between Kate and Henry was deleted. o All of this was deleted likely because of the sensors under the pressure from Queen Elizabeth did not like certain references within the original work. So, all of these things that might have shed disfavor from the ruling class and from the Queen might have been deleted. Shakespeare’s Positive Alterations from Holinshed and Hall o We also see some of the positive alterations—which helped to lift and develop the image of Henry from the sources. Shakespeare excludes the madness of Charles VI and the political division among the French nobility. He also suppresses the fact that Harfleur was indeed sacked and not treated with clemency after his initial violent threats. He also does not mention that Henry is trapped in Agincourt by a strategic error. He also transforms the French queen, Isabel, from a corrupt, devious, and treacherous figure into a more “moderate, gracious, and dignified queen of 5.2.” He also invents the scene of Henry visiting his troops in disguise the night before the battle to make him seem more like the friendly Hal of the earlier plays. He also invents the wooing scene with Princess Katherine to make him seem more romantic and human. In addition, he invents the comic scenes with Fluellen, Jamy, MacMorris, and Gower and the scenes including Pistol, Bardolph, Mistress Quickly, Nym and the Boy. Not only for a comic sense but also for a kind of political sense to give the idea he has been successful in bringing all of these men together and unifying them under one flag. The Critics: Henry V as ‘Machiavel’ o Critics look at the character of Henry V as a Machiavel— as a political operator and somebody who is somewhat cynical and manipulative in handling people. o For example, the hanging of Bardolph and threatening Harfleur—where many critics see this as cold blooded, where he would betray an old friend and frighten men, women, and children who are helpless before him. o In addition, the killing of the French prisoner—many regard this as ruthless and unnecessary o The idea of the ‘War of Choice’ with France—so, for political reasons Henry chose to invade this country and risked the lives of British soldiers in order to help him politically back in England. So seems very cynical because it is done for only political purposes. o The romancing with Katherine can be seen as delightful on one hand, but on the other, she has no choice. She is just one of the pawns, prizes that Henry is going to claim. o Conversation with “Williams” – conversation they have the night before the battle. When Henry puts on the robe of Sir Tom Erpingham to show he cares about his troops and can mingle with them. William is saying that if the cause is not good, they are dying for something meaningless and have left our wives/children behind. So, if they do not die well for a just cause, the blame should be on the King. One critic believes that Williams is actually the voice of William Shakespeare. Such that, this is an opposing voice with patriotic rhetoric suggesting that Henry is a great King but sends people into battle on a cause that is questionable and perhaps unjust. Williams provides an important statement here and is one that is worth considering when you have Henry enshrined as the mirror of all Christian Kings. This passage therefore questions the morality, ethics, and character of Henry. o Also have to look at the dealing with the Cardinals. Cardinals here are concerned because Henry is taking so much money from them to “maintain the honor of the King and the defense of the realm.” Archbishop of Canterbury does not take his concerns to the King, but instead to Parliament—in a more public arena. So, the money Henry would be taking from them would only add to the stability and the infrastructure of the King’s military. Also, it would help lepers and those who were too old and weak to work. So, the money would not only help the military but also the poor, the weak, the sick, the elderly—shows Henry as rather cynical and too politically involved. We see the Archbishop of Canterbury make an offer with the Bishop of Ely suggesting that the clergy will give the King more money than they ever have before in order to send enough troops to war with France if the bill is repealed. Textual ambiguities versus Cinematic Certainties We see this through two depictions of the character of Henry: Olivier’s Henry versus Branagh’s Henry Olivier’s Changes o This film was made in 1944 and very well received. It takes extraordinary liberties with Shakespeare’s text; thus, you must look at every work of art in the context of its own time. o So in 1944, Great Britain was a rather beaten up country and had suffered greatly from the war. At around 1944 was just about the time of the Normandy landing and the tide of the war was turning. o This version was dedicated to the Commandos and Airborne Troops of Great Britain – and a film that was largely funded by the British Government. So, the intention of this film is to be a feel-good movie and a kind of propaganda piece about the suffering of Great Britain but likewise the prospering of the country. o He removes any kind of text that would seem to blur the soft-focused image that he wants of a great country and a great King. Eliminates all of the ambiguities that would shine on Henry as being harsh or cruel or opportunistic o Takes out Henry’s death judgment against the traitors Cambridge, Scrope, and Grey. o Also removes the hanging of Bardolph for looting the church. o He eliminates the order to execute the French prisoners—want to make sure only good things are attached to this King. o He takes out the violent and bloodthirsty threats against Harfleur and the confrontation with the solider, Williams, at the battles. o Takes out the last six lines of the Chorus’ Epilogue indicating that France was lost and that England “bled” under his son and the “many” who “had the managing of the state” during his reign. o All of this has been eliminated because he is trying to make a puff-piece, a happy movie that reflects well on the country and the King. o Everything about the production itself even seems cheerful: the lighting, the costumes, the good humor, the general tone of euphoria, the grand color. o Dr. Shaw pulls up images of the original text and shows how a lot of the lines are cut from production, with large X’s indicating these deleted chunks of text. Branagh’s Changes o Can easily pick up on the bright lights of Olivier’s version in contrast to the dark setting of Branagh’s version. o Suggests a darkness in perception—you do not have the two clergymen, who are a couple of clowns, dressed in gaily colored outfits. Instead you have two sneaky men dressed in dark clothing who look sinister. They look capable of depriving the King of money for his country or depriving poor and sick people of the money they need to survive. o The music is also very dark and suspicious, suggesting that something sinister is about to take place. o Branagh’s entire scene is very compressed. Such that, in comparison to Olivier’s changes, this production only has 21 lines of original text from the first scene, where Olivier’s has 56. And Branagh’s scene only takes 62 seconds to perform where Olivier’s takes around 3.5 minutes. Therefore, the scene is very short, dark, and suggesting of something evil and conspiratorial. o In fact, there is a conspiracy in this scene between Exeter and the Bishops. o He skirts the ambiguity that we see in Shakespeare’s play and deflects it by putting the conspiratorial elements on the backs of the Lords and the King. o Captures visually the tone of the scene that Shakespeare wants, but changes and deflects the responsibility. o Many of the critics refer to the character of Henry as Machiavel, loathsome, ruthless, and showing many elements of democratic violence. o So, Branagh essentially avoids the ambiguities by deflecting the conspiracy within his version. Political Uses of Political Texts: Conclusion Holinshed, right from the beginning, took history and altered it for the purposes of Henry VIII, because Henry wanted to show the Tutor dynasty as being the savior of Britain from the chaos of the past. So, the political text of Holinshed was shaped for political purposes. But, he did capture the sense of the corrupt Clergy, which did play into the hands of Henry. Then Shakespeare takes this text and alters it for his purposes. He changes it and shows it as a quid pro quo between the Bishops and Henry, a secret deal. And in open court, Henry and the Bishops are creating a political theatre to deceive the Lords. In the films we saw from Olivier and Branagh, “the two directors have circumvented the play’s ambiguities of characterization and theme through tonal distortion or textual deletions.” Such that, Olivier’s Henry V “defeats the play’s ambiguity by burlesquing the first two serious and problematic scenes of the play, smothering the sense of the scenes in comic business.” Whereas Branagh, “creates a serious tone, but his pointed textual deletions diminish the clarity and force of the scenes’ meaning.”
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