Main Text


Reception and Reputation

No one bored by war will be interested in Henry V. In other of Shakespeare's plays battles have their exits and their entrances, wars pass by as the consequences and determinants of political and domestic conflict; but Henry V alone wholly dedicates itself to dramatizing this brutal, exhilarating, and depressingly persistent human activity. In that sense, at least, Henry V's first French campaign, culminating in the astonishing English victory at Agincourt, is clearly meant to be exemplary: exemplary of the nature of war. But this self-evident unity of dramatic conception has itself turned the play into a critical no man's land, acrimoniously contested and periodically disfigured by opposing barrages of intellectual artillery. Those interested in war are seldom disinterested about the play, or the message they assume or desire it to peddle. Consequently critics almost all divide into two camps: partisans of Henry and partisans of pacificism. Partisans of Henry generally like the play, interpreting it as a blunt straightforward Englishman's paean to English glory; if the details of the action occasionally jar with this interpretation, the apparent discrepancies are due simply to Shakespeare's absorption in the material, his faithful over-reliance upon the chronicles, his innocence of the possibility of such wilful and cynical misconstructions as the play has suffered at the hands of Henry's modern detractors. Partisans of pacifism either dislike the play intensely, or believe that Shakespeare (Subtle rather than Blunt, and never straightforward) himself intensely disliked Henry, and tried hard to communicate this moral distaste to the more discerning members of his audience; the fact that productions of the play apparently never succeed in communicating this message establishes nothing but the perfidy of performers and the gullibility of their audiences.

This neat division of scholarly opinion may tell us something about Shakespeare's play;1 but it probably tells us more about the nature of discursive literary criticism. The schism itself seems not to have existed before William Hazlitt, whose vigorous and pg 2entertaining description of Henry in Characters of Shakespear's Plays set the syllabus for much modern interpretation:

Henry V is a very favourite monarch with the English nation, and he appears to have been also a favourite with Shakespear, who labours hard to apologize for the actions of the king … He scarcely deserves this honour. He was fond of war and low company: — we know little else of him. He was careless, dissolute, and ambitious — idle, or doing mischief … in public affairs, he seemed to have no idea of any rule of right or wrong, but brute force, glossed over with a little religious hypocrisy and archiepiscopal advice … Henry, because he did not know how to govern his own kingdom, determined to make war upon his neighbours. Because his own title to the crown was doubtful, he laid claim to that of France. Because he did not know how to exercise the enormous power, which had just dropped into his hands, to any one good purpose, he immediately undertook (a cheap and obvious resource of sovereignty) to do all the mischief he could … Henry declares his resolution 'when France is his, to bend it to his awe, or break it all to pieces' — a resolution worthy of a conqueror, to destroy all that he cannot enslave; and what adds to the joke, he lays all the blame of the consequences of his ambition on those who will not submit tamely to his tyranny. Such is the history of kingly power, from the beginning to the end of the world … He was a hero, that is, he was ready to sacrifice his own life for the pleasure of destroying thousands of other lives … How then do we like him? We like him in the play. There he is a very amiable monster, a very splendid pageant. As we like to gaze at a panther or a young lion in their cages … so we take a very romantic, heroic, patriotic, and poetical delight in the boasts and feats of our younger Harry, as they appear on the stage and are confined to lines of ten syllables …

Hazlitt is delighted by his own outrageousness: when he blames Henry for his religious hypocrisy, for the suffering he causes, for the 'cheap and obvious resource' of laying on others the responsibility for his own atrocities, for the speciousness of his claim to France (or, for that matter, England), Hazlitt knowingly and with relish is goading the sacred cows of his own generation. But these paradoxes have themselves become the commonplaces of much modern criticism, apparently for reasons that have more to do with the subsequent history of Europe than with Shakespeare's play.1 For Hazlitt, literary criticism is the continuation of politics by other pg 3means; his critique of Henry — with its axioms about 'the history of kingly power' and its mocking comparison of Henry's invasion of France (to depose a king) with Wellington's (to restore one) — unabashedly springs from the political preoccupations of his era and his own ideological convictions. And Hazlitt's convictions have become, for the most part, our own.

But, however appealing we may find it, Hazlitt's attack on Henry was not only consciously iconoclastic and written relatively late in the history of the play's reception (1817); it also repeatedly confuses the historical and dramatic Henry. The historical Henry may well have been everything Hazlitt says about him; but this need tell us nothing about Shakespeare's Henry — as Hazlitt himself recognizes. Now as then, the fact is that 'We like him in the play'. For Hazlitt this simply demonstrates the irredeemable irreality and immorality of all theatrical representation; it glorifies egotism and romanticizes brutality. Here too, of course, Hazlitt anticipates a major modern controversy: the focus of the debate has shifted away from theatre toward television and film, and Henry V has seldom if ever been mentioned, but the capacity of drama to render cruelty exhilarating has been widely condemned. Whether Henry V should also be condemned, as an immoral play which legitimizes and praises violence, depends upon whether audiences do respond in the way Hazlitt suggested to the object Hazlitt described.

What the play's first audiences made of it we can only guess. London had apparently already seen, in the late 1580s and early 1590s, at least three other plays on Henry's reign. In 1592 Thomas Nashe wrote of 'what a glorious thing it is to have Henry the Fifth represented on the stage, leading the French king prisoner, and forcing both him and the Dauphin to swear fealty';1 from 28 November 1595 to 15 July 1596 Philip Henslowe's account book records 13 performances by the Admiral's men of a 'ne[w]' play he calls 'harey the v' (in a variety of spellings); a 1598 inventory of the company's apparel includes 'Harye the v. velvet gowne' and also (in a different list) 'j payer of hosse for the Dowlfen', which has been plausibly identified as a pair of hose for the Dauphin in the same play.2 About these two plays we know nothing more than the pg 4one incident described by Nashe and the title, dates, two pieces of costuming, and daily receipts — which were good — recorded by Henslowe.1 Of the third play — 'The Famous Victories of Henry the fifth: Containing the Honourable Battell of Agin-court: As it was plaide by the Queenes Maiesties Players' — a text has survived (though one of dubious reliability). The edition we have is dated 1598, but the play was entered in the Stationers' Register on 14 May 1594; and as the chief comic actor of the Queen's men, Richard Tarlton, is thought to have acted in a scene similar to one in The Famous Victories, the original production presumably dates from before his death in 1588.2 Moreover, since the text we have does not contain any scene in which Henry leads the French king prisoner (or in which such an incident is even imaginable), The Famous Victories cannot be the play alluded to by Nashe. This gives us three known Henry V plays between about 1587–8 and 1595–6.3

The fourth, Shakespeare's, must have been finished by May or early June of 1599. Several lines in the Chorus to Act Five make this almost indisputable:

  • As, by a lower but high-loving likelihood,
  • Were now the General of our gracious Empress —
  • As in good time he may — from Ireland coming,
  • Bringing rebellion broachèd on his sword,
  • How many would the peaceful city quit
  • To welcome him!
  • (5.0.29–34)

'Our gracious Empress' must be Elizabeth I, who died in 1603, and pg 5who in 1599 dispatched an expedition under Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, to suppress Tyrone's rebellion in Ireland. This venture had been in active preparation since November 1598, with departure in the spring under Essex widely anticipated and discussed.1 Essex himself left London on 27 March, amid scenes of triumphal celebration:2

He took horse in Seeding Lane, and from thence being accompanied with divers noblemen and many others, himself very plainly attired, rode through Grace-church Street, Cornhill, Cheapside, and other high streets, in all which places and in the fields, the people pressed exceedingly to behold him, especially in the highway, for more than four miles' space crying and saying, 'God bless your Lordship, God preserve your honour', etc.; and some followed him till the evening, only to behold him.

The hero returned defeated and disgraced on 28 September; but it had been clear since midsummer that he would not be 'Bringing rebellion broachèd on his sword'. If this allusion is accepted, completion of Shakespeare's play can be firmly dated from January to June 1599. Early rather than late spring would fit best with what we can deduce of Shakespeare's other work at about this time.3

A variety of other evidence supports this conclusion. Henry V is not included in Francis Meres's list of Shakespeare's works in Palladis Tamia (entered in the Stationers' Register on 7 September 1598);4 it must have been written after 2 Henry IV, which on other evidence seems safely assignable to 1597–8;5 it seems clearly indebted (as I will argue below, pp. 52–5) to George Chapman's pg 6Seven Books of the Iliads of Homer, entered in the Stationers' Register on 10 April 1598; and it is probably echoed in several scenes of The Life of Sir John Oldcastle, which was finished by 16 October 1599.1 On August 4 of the following year the play is named in a Stationers' Register note of Chamberlain's men's plays 'Entred':2

4 Augusti

As yow like yt: / a booke
Henry the ffift: / a booke
Euery man in his Humor. / a booke
The cōmedie of muche
A doo about nothinge. / a booke

to be staied

The meaning of this memorandum is disputed and, for our purposes, relatively unimportant; it probably represents an attempt by the Chamberlain's men to prevent, or at least secure payment for, publication of several recent plays.3 But ten days later Henry V had already been printed, for on that date the Register records the transfer of its copyright to Thomas Pavier:

Thomas Pavyer Entred for his Copyes by direction

of mr white warden vnder his

hand wrytinge. These Copyes

followinge beinge thinges formerlye

printed & sett over to the sayd Thom̃s

Pavyer: viz …

The historye of Henrye the Vth wth
the battell of Agencourt


The text to which these obscure business transactions allude is a quarto with the following title-page:

  • THE
  • History of Henry the fift,
  • With his battell fought at Agin Court in
  • France. Togither with Auntient
  • Pistoll.
  • pg 7 As it hath bene sundry times playd by the Right honorable
  • the Lord Chamberlaine his seruants.
  • [device]
  • Printed by Thomas Creede, for Tho. Milling-
  • ton, and Iohn Busby. And are to be
  • sold at his house in Carter Lane, next
  • the Powle head. 1600.

The text printed in this quarto itself raises a number of questions, but the quarto's mere existence confirms that Henry V had been written and 'sundry times' performed by the summer of 1600.

The date of Henry V can thus not only be established with — for Shakespeare — extraordinary precision; it is also of extraordinary importance. Reflections of contemporary history have been suspected in many of Shakespeare's plays, but the allusion to the Irish expedition in 5.0.29–34 is the only explicit, extra-dramatic, incontestable reference to a contemporary event anywhere in the canon. The period of the play's composition must have coincided almost exactly with a period of great national enthusiasm for an expansionist military adventure, led by a young, flamboyant, and popular general: six to eight months of expectant confidence, self-righteous indignation, and chauvinistic pride. How Shakespeare himself regarded what seems to us now a rather unseemly and ridiculous fervour we have only the play itself to tell us: and though the allusion to Essex is unquestionably complimentary, the sting in its tale ('much more, and much more cause, | Did they this Harry') deserves more attention than it seems to have attracted.1 What can hardly be disputed is the playwright's preoccupation with Irish affairs: from Captain MacMorris, Shakespeare's only Irish character (3.3), to the 'kern of Ireland' and 'foul bogs' (3.7.51–5), through Pistol's 'Calin o custure me' (4.4.4) to the general 'from Ireland coming' (5.0.29–34), the revealing textual error in 'So happy be the issue, brother Ireland' (5.2.12), and Henry's promise to Catherine that 'England is thine, Ireland is thine, France is thine' (5.2.230). This preoccupation the dramatist could confidently expect his audience to share; just as confidently he could expect pg 8their enthusiastic assent to Ely's call for 'exploits and mighty enterprises' (1.2.121).1

Even so, the political circumstances of early 1599 only reinforced (if in the strongest possible way) expectations and assumptions already abundantly evident both in the Tudor chronicles and in the earlier dramatic treatments of Henry's campaign. Nashe's description of one of these comes in the midst of a defence of plays as 'a rare exercise of virtue', being 'representations honourable, and full of gallant resolution', many of them 'borrowed out of our English chronicles, wherein our forefathers' valiant acts (that have lain long buried in rusty brass and worm-eaten books) are revived, and they themselves raised from the grave of oblivion, and brought to plead their aged honours in open presence: than which, what can be a sharper reproof to these degenerate effeminate days of ours?' The very title of The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth epitomizes the distance between Elizabethan and modern expectations: for while such a title could hardly be anything but ironic in a serious modern play (like Samuel Beckett's Happy Days or Mike Leigh's Ecstasy), there is not the dwarf of a hint of irony or disapprobation in The Famous Victories.

But the expectations of audiences can shape plays in more than one way. Henry's literary admirers have assumed that the national mood, bolstering prejudices evident in the chronicles and earlier plays, would have ensured that audiences simply did not see ambiguities or complications descried by later, cold-blooded sceptics; that in the heat of such enthusiasm all disagreeables would evaporate. This may not be true of all disagreeables, but it certainly applies to a few. The idea of the church subsidizing a war can hardly have seemed, in itself, so incongruous then as it does now: the Archbishop of Canterbury's successors had, within recent memory, made three similarly generous contributions to military spending (1586, 1588, 1593).2 And given the expansionist national mood, many spectators may have been willing enough to accept any legal justification, however tenuous, for Henry's in- pg 9vasion of France: successful imperialism has seldom been unpopular at home.1 Likewise, Henry's reference to 'What watch the King keeps to maintain the peace' (4.1.271) — a passage in which, a recent critic declares, 'Shakespeare's ironic intent is perhaps clearer than anywhere else' in the play2 — may not have seemed so remarkable in 1599. England's reigning monarch had, for a generation, maintained the peace largely by fighting wars abroad: Elizabeth's military expeditions to Ireland, France, and the Low Countries, her naval harassments of Spanish fleets and ports, were all justified and widely supported as actions necessary to preserve the peace and security of England itself, by preventing her encirclement and invasion by Catholic enemies. Moreover, the theme of the speech in which this line occurs — 'the cares of monarchs' — would hardly have discouraged an audience from understanding it in terms of the living Elizabeth as much as the dead Henry.

But strong predispositions do not always have the effect of obscuring difficulties; it is equally possible — indeed in most cases it seems to me considerably more likely — that such confident expectations might make any apparent departure from the usual encomium stand out 'as gross | As black on white' (2.2.102–3). Particularly revealing in this respect are modern assertions about the play's initial reception: 'we have no reason to doubt that Henry V … was a popular play' and 'I cannot doubt of the play's success in the early summer of 1599'.3 It needs no ghost come from the grave to tell us that a play on so popular a figure, performed at a time so ideally suited to its subject, written by the most popular dramatist and acted by the most successful company of the age, as a sequel to so immediately and widely beloved a play as Henry IV, indeed should have been an enormous success; but we have little or no evidence that, in the event, it was one. Only two references to performances of the play survive; one the quarto's statement that it 'hath bene sundry times playd' by the Lord Chamberlain's men, the other an entry in the Revels Accounts recording one performance at court on 7 January 1605. That the play was revived before King James almost six years after its first pg 10performances suggests that it was still in the repertoire; that someone in 1600 took the trouble to acquire and print what seems (as we shall see) to have been an unauthorized text suggests that some market for and interest in the text was expected; that the play was reprinted in 1602 suggests that this commercial expectation was not entirely disappointed.1 But 1 Henry IV was printed twice in 1598 and then again the following year, running through nine editions before 1640; of Richard III there were eight, of Richard II six, of Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet five each, of Venus and Adonis sixteen, of The Rape of Lucrece eight. Court performances of other plays are recorded as late as the 1630s;2 Henry V's single revival early in 1605 might have had more to do with the martial interests of Prince Henry than with the play's continuing popularity. Only six allusions to the play before 1660 have been discovered: one is Ben Jonson's sneer at the use of a Chorus that 'wafts you o'er the seas' (Every Man in His Humour, Prologue 15), another Fletcher's parody of the Salic Law speech (see below, p. 34). There are 131 allusions to Falstaff before 1700, and another 30 to Henry IV; all the Histories except King John are referred to more frequently than Henry V.3 Moreover, the quality of the surviving allusions to Henry V tells the same story as their quantity: there are no explicit tributes to the theatrical impact of the play or any of its parts — such as we have for Henry IV, Much Ado, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Titus Andronicus and other plays.

Such evidence hardly encourages the belief that Henry V was the runaway box-office smash that has been claimed or might have been expected. Its theatrical fortunes may have been affected by Ireland's bursting of the Essex bubble, or by the gradual shift in theatrical fashion away from chronicle plays. But Henry V's later theatrical history, which cannot have been influenced by such pg 11accidents, shows much the same pattern.1 The play was not revived, after the Restoration, until 1738; for the duration of the eighteenth century it stayed reasonably but not spectacularly popular, as it has remained ever since. Revivals have almost always coincided with wars, rumours of wars, and attendant military enthusiasms; so that even the popularity the play can claim might be attributed rather to English foreign policy than to English theatrical taste. But Henry V has not only been consistently revived in times of national crisis; it has also been, at such times, consistently rewritten. When patriotism wants a play, the play Shakespeare produced — for just such an occasion — is found insufficiently simple and unnecessarily disquieting; the serious scenes, moreover, always suffer the most drastic surgery. Laurence Olivier's famous 1944 film, dedicated to the commandos and airborne troops of Great Britain — 'the spirit of whose ancestors it has been humbly attempted to recapture … ' — cut almost 1700 lines;2 Charles Calvert's 1872 production, the most popular of the play's Victorian revivals, cut 1200.3 Where discreet omissions have proved inadequate, they have been complemented by heroic interpolations: John Philip Kemble had Henry close 3.6 with the ringing assurance that4

  • Were the French twice the number that they are.
  • We would cut a passage through them to our home,
  • Or tear the lions out of England's coat.

pg 12If Henry V as Shakespeare wrote it has been found puzzling in later times of national crisis, it may have been found equally so in 1599; the apparent modesty of its early success could be due to its having disappointed, in one way or another, the complacent expectations of its first audience. The text actually printed in the quarto of 1600 certainly suggests as much: it omits, from the play as we know it, the opening scene (with its revelation of mixed ecclesiastical motives for supporting Henry's claim to France), lines 115–35 of 1.2 (which culminate in the Archbishop's offer of church financing for the war), all reference in 2.1 to Henry's personal responsibility for Falstaff's condition, Cambridge's hint of motives other than simple bribery for the conspiracy against Henry (2.2.154–9), the bloodthirsty MacMorris and most of Henry's savage ultimatum in 3.3, all of Burgundy's description of the devastation Henry has wreaked on France (5.2.38–62). Whoever was responsible for them, the effect of the differences between this text and the one printed in all modern editions is to remove almost every difficulty in the way of an unambiguously patriotic interpretation of Henry and his war — that is, every departure from the kind of play which theatrical convention and the national mood would have led audiences of 1599 to expect. Yet, at the same time, in a few places it curiously anticipates modern, sceptical interpretations of the play, for instance in having Williams refuse to endorse Henry's self-justifications on the eve of Agincourt.

The source of these variants is, therefore, a matter of some interest.

Text and Interpretation

To the text of Shakespeare's play there are two early witnesses, the Quarto of 1600 (Q) and the Folio of 1623 (F). Each of these was reprinted — Q in 1602 and 1619; F in 1632, 1663 and 1685 — but the reprints (though they occasionally correct obvious errors) are without any authority or importance. All editions since 1623 have been based on F. This shows every sign of having been printed directly from an authorial manuscript draft, what contemporaries called 'foul papers'. For instance, its speech prefixes and stage directions are sometimes imprecise or inconsistent in the designation of characters.1 Both Henry V and Charles VI are normally pg 13referred to simply as 'King'; this creates problems in 5.2, where for the first and only time both are on stage. In the initial direction 'the King' is Charles, but at l. 98 'the King' is Henry; at 5.2.1 the prefix 'King' refers to Henry; thereafter the two are distinguished as 'France' and 'England' until Henry is left alone with Catherine, at which point he reverts to 'King', remaining so even after Charles's return, until l. 311 where the two are again distinguished by nationality. Catherine's gentlewoman is identified as 'Alice' in 3.4; in 5.2 the same woman (presumably) is simply 'Lady'. Henry's youngest brother is 'Humfrey' at 1.2.0 and 'Gloucester' (variously spelled) in subsequent scenes. Upon the entrance of Jamy and MacMorris ('Scot' and 'Irish' in the speech prefixes), Fluellen becomes 'Welch' in the prefixes, remaining so until the end of the scene. Pistol's new wife is variously 'Quickly' (, 'Hostesse' (thereafter), and 'Woman' (2.3.30); Montjoy, specified by name in 3.6 and 4.3, becomes merely 'Herald' in 4.7; but then in 4.8 'Enter Herauld' refers not to Montjoy but to an English herald, otherwise unidentified.

A similar imprecision is evident in a number of the stage directions: in 2.2 no entrance is provided for the attendants who must eventually escort the three traitors offstage at l. 178; in 2.4 no entrance is provided for the Constable, or for Exeter's fellow-ambassadors; Fluellen's entrance at 3.3.0 is omitted, as is the entrance of Warwick, Gloucester, and Exeter with Henry at; at 'Alice' (or 'Lady') is not named among the characters who must remain on stage. In these cases characters required by the dialogue are absent from the stage directions; elsewhere characters appear in directions but have no existence outside them. Thus, the direction at 4.2.0 calls for 'Beaumont' to enter with the other French lords: he appears nowhere else in the play, says nothing, and is never spoken or referred to. Though preserved in some editions, Beaumont is clearly a ghost character, like Hero's mother Innogen in the opening direction of the Quarto of Much Ado about Nothing, Violenta in 3.5 of All's Well that Ends Well, Lamprius and Lucillius and Rannius in 1.2 of Antony and Cleopatra, Fauconbridge and Kent at 1.3.0 and 4.4.0 of the Quarto of 2 Henry IV (all texts believed to have been set from authorial drafts).1 pg 14Equally non-existent, dramatically, are 'Clarence' (called for in the opening direction of 1.2, but given nothing to do or say thereafter), 'Berri' (called for in the opening direction of 2.4), and the 'others' specified but ignored in the French night scene (3.7.0).

Alongside these positive errors in stage directions occur vagaries typical of authors in the flush of creation but inconvenient for the more mundane routine of playhouses. Speaking characters are sometimes included in vague generic entrances (Bretagne among the 'others' at 3.5.0, Gloucester among the 'poore Souldiers' at, Catherine and Alice among the 'other French' at 5.2.0). In 4.6 Exeter is implied in the initial entrance direction though he clearly must enter separately from and shortly after the others. Finally, some of the directions seem to betray the author's own process of composition. At 3.1.0, F has 'Enter the King, Exeter, Bedford, and Gloucester. Alarum: Scaling Ladders at Harflew'; in stage terms this amounts to 'Alarum. Enter the King and his army, with scaling ladders'. There is no need to specify these particular nobles (one of whom, Gloucester, has not as yet said or done anything in the play); 'at Harflew' is a purely literary flourish; someone must be carrying the scaling ladders; and the alarum does not, absurdly, come between the arrival of the nobles and that of the common soldiers, but covers the entire group entrance. Likewise, at 4.3.0 F reads 'Enter Gloucester, Bedford, Exeter, Erpingham with all his Hoast: Salisbury, and Westmerland'; but there is no earthly reason why the last two nobles, who both speak within the first five lines of the scene, should be separated from the others, and F's arrangement of the names looks like the result of an almost immediate authorial addition.

None of these deficiencies and inconsistencies would in itself rule out the use of the manuscript as an Elizabethan promptbook; such theatrical manuscripts as have survived make it clear that the theatres of that age did not require the standard of precision and regularity found in, for instance, a Royal Shakespeare Company promptbook of today. But we can say that F shows no signs of the normalizing and regularizing which transcripts, literary or theatrical, tended to provide; it does show all the features of authorial drafts. Equally characteristic of foul papers is the absence of scene-divisions in F, and the presumable absence of act-divisions in its underlying manuscript; for the act-divisions actually present in F are clearly erroneous, and were almost certainly supplied in pg 15the printing house itself.1 Nor does there appear to have been any concerted attempt to remove profanities, as required by the 1606 Act against Abuses; as elsewhere, the compositors themselves may have done some sporadic censoring on their own (see Appendix G), but there is nothing like the wholesale purification suffered by the Folio texts of 2 Henry IV, Hamlet, and Othello. Nor is there any evidence of political censorship. We know that the play was performed at least once after James I's accession, and it would be extraordinary to suppose that it was, with this one exception, completely dropped from the repertoire by the middle of 1599; yet the reference to Essex in 5.0 must surely have been removed or replaced in later performances, and the gentle ridicule of Captain Jamy in 3.3 would hardly have recommended itself after 1603 (let alone before James himself, in 1605).2 Indeed it may not have recommended itself even in 1599; James, already the prime pg 16candidate as Elizabeth's successor, had made known his displeasure at certain dramatic representations of him and his countrymen, and the potentially offensive scene is absent from Q.1 Some of the lines missing from the Quarto text of 1.2 also look like victims of censorship, and Q's consistent identification of Scrope as 'Masham' might result from the censor's deference to the living Lord Scrope.2 In all these respects, F shows no signs of the kinds of alteration we might expect a manuscript to have suffered, if it had served as the company promptbook.

Finally, certain kinds of error and dislocation in the Folio text argue strongly for its derivation from a manuscript draft. The transposition of two lines at 4.3.11–14 looks like the result of a misunderstood marginal addition; even more striking, the beginning of 4.4 (ll. 2–11) seems to be the first draft of the passage, almost immediately replaced by the subsequent dialogue.3 The lines, not present in Q, include Pistol's query about the Frenchman's name ('What is thy name? Discuss'), the Frenchman's answer ('O Seigneur Dieu!'), and Pistol's acceptance of it ('O Seigneur Dew should be a gentleman', etc.): yet Pistol subsequently instructs the Boy to ask the Frenchman his name (ll. 21–2). Shakespeare may have immediately abandoned this earlier version because he knew that the profane joke on 'Seigneur Dieu' would not survive the attentions of the censor. In any case, the passage seems as likely to be an abandoned first draft as the duplicated lines in Biron's speech (Love's Labour's Lost 4.3.292–314) or the duplicated speech in Romeo and Juliet (2.2.188–2.3.4). There is in fact a second such 'abandoned first draft' at the end of 3.5:

Prince Dauphin, you shall stay with us in Rouen.

dauphin Not so, I do beseech your majesty.

king charles Be patient, for you shall remain with us.


pg 17Two scenes later the Dauphin nevertheless appears with the other nobles in the French camp at Agincourt, without comment or explanation. In this case, however, Q retains the apparently abandoned first attempt; it instead removes the Dauphin from Agincourt. How Q acquired access to three lines which represent an alternative treatment of the Dauphin, apparently abandoned in the course of composition, is a question I will return to in a moment.

In addition, F contains an unusually high number of probable or certain misreadings, as do most of the other texts believed to have been set from foul papers. Theatrical manuscripts were probably either the author's own fair copy, suitably annotated, or a transcript of that authorial fair copy; 'fair copy' is, by definition, an attempt by the author to provide a tidier and more legible text. On the other hand, if a theatrical scribe had worked directly from the foul papers he would probably have been personally familiar with the author's handwriting (as one of the two Folio compositors was certainly not1), or in a position to leave temporary blanks in the transcript when he could not decipher particular words. For all these reasons texts set from fair or scribal copy appear to contain fewer misreadings than those set from foul papers.2

Even if we disregard passages in French or Latin (which present unusual difficulties for a compositor), F contains forty-two readings unanimously rejected by modern editors; inclusion of foreign language names and dialogue would increase this total to eightyfour.3 The Winter's Tale, set by the same compositors from a Ralph Crane transcript, contains only twenty-one such readings.4 Most of these errors seem to be the result of misinterpretations of handwriting similar to those which occur in other texts apparently set pg 18directly from Shakespearian manuscripts; this is particularly true in the foreign language passages, where the compositors must have been guided entirely by the shape of the letters.1 It would be misleading to suggest that these misreadings could have been made only if the manuscript were written by Shakespeare himself. Nevertheless, the sheer number of these errors, and their type, entirely agrees with the evidence of other foul-paper texts; so does the sporadic evidence of 'unusual' spellings.2 Moreover, one error in particular — the substitution of 'Ireland' for the clearly required 'England' in 'So happy be the Issue brother Ireland' (5.2.12) seems almost certain to be Shakespeare's own 'Freudian slip' — a slip natural enough in 1599, a hundred lines after Shakespeare's reference to the Essex expedition in 5.0, but most unlikely to have been made by a later scribe or compositor.

Modern scholars have therefore generally agreed that F was set directly from Shakespeare's own foul papers. Four possible complications must, nevertheless, be briefly considered. W. W. Greg thought that many of the directions for flourishes and alarums might have been supplied by a book-keeper, adding marginal annotations to the foul papers before they were transcribed for the promptbook.3 This is unprovable and immaterial: authors could, demonstrably, provide such directions themselves. More seriously, A. S. Cairncross argued that the Folio compositors were not workingpg 19 directly from Shakespeare's manuscript itself, but from copies of the 1602 and 1619 reprints of Q, which had themselves been heavily annotated by reference to that manuscript; this complex and inherently implausible hypothesis I have examined at length, and rejected, elsewhere.1 It has also been suggested that the Choruses are a later addition to the play, and that the allusion in them to 'the General of our gracious Empress' (5.0.30) refers not to Essex but to Charles Blount, Lord Montjoy, Elizabeth's General and Lord Deputy in Ireland from 1600 to her death in 1603.2 The only evidence for this hypothesis is the absence of the Choruses from Q, for which (as we will see) there exists an altogether simpler explanation; subsidiary speculations — that Shakespeare did not write the speeches, or wrote them especially for a court performance — recommend neither themselves nor the hypothesis they embroider.3

Finally, both Dover Wilson and J. H. Walter argued, independently, that the text as we have it in F represents a revised version of the play; that Shakespeare began the play, and perhaps even completed it, fully intending to include Falstaff; but that for one or another external reason (the departure of the company's leading comic actor Will Kempe, or political interference by the Brooke family) Falstaff had to be removed, and the comic scenes of the play substantially rewritten.4 Charity might be tempted to describe this intriguing hypothesis as harmless; but it has the unfortunate critical consequence of implying that approximately one half of the play is a poor makeshift, something second-best tacked on in an emergency, which can therefore hardly be expected to bear much organic or structural relationship to the rest; specifically and centrally, it asserts that Falstaff's death is a theatrical accident rather than the consequence of a deliberate and meaningful artistic choice. In the nature of things such speculations are unprovable pg 20— or, rather, easily 'proven' by reference to the scattering of inconsistencies to be found in all Shakespeare's works.1 For all we know, Kempe might have left the company because Shakespeare killed off Falstaff; certainly, even if Kempe did originally play Falstaff (which seems likely enough, although we have no direct evidence to prove it), the company continued to perform the Falstaff plays, and a replacement good enough for Henry IV and The Merry Wives of Windsor could hardly have been incapable of Henri V.2 The particular anomaly which has given some credibility to this hypothesis (similar in its outlines to Wilson's reconstructions of several layers of composition in many other plays) is a textual crux in the Chorus of Act Two; this I have considered in detail in Appendix B. But one's adherence to or rejection of this hypothesis makes little or no difference to the editing of the play, since Wilson and Walter in any case agree that F was set from foul papers.3

I have dwelt upon the evidence for this (generally accepted) conclusion — that F derives from an authorial draft — because it is crucial to the interpretation of Q. Q prints a much shorter text; it does not contain the Choruses, 1.1, 3.1, or 4.2, or (as I have already noted) many lines of other scenes present in F. Given the apparent date of composition of the manuscript underlying F and the known date of publication of Q; given the apparent attempt to prevent Q's publication; given that Q does not contain material in F which one might have expected to be censored or omitted after the summer of 1599, the conclusion that the passages present in F are not present in Q because the latter has suffered theatrical cuts is almost inescapable. On the other hand, the extent of Q's pg 21abbreviation far exceeds what we could expect, on the basis of surviving promptbooks, as a 'normal' amount of adaptation and abridgement.1 Moreover, even where both texts contain a scene or passage, they seldom agree exactly upon its wording, and though in some cases the differences between them could easily result from the combined agencies of compositorial and scribal error, for most of the play the divergences are too extensive to be credibly attributed to such causes. Finally, though both texts contain errors, it is difficult to deny that Q is more frequently and more seriously corrupt than F. One need not submit to the draconian metrical legislation of Pope in order to recognize that Q far more frequently and awkwardly departs from the decasyllabic five-stress line which, with certain standard variations, constitutes the norm of Shakespearian verse.2 That Q on occasion prints nonsense need not surprise us; but the quality of the nonsense bespeaks some extraordinary agency of corruption. The Archbishop of Canterbury's disquisition on the Salic Law provides a particularly compelling example of this, because the speech in F clearly derives from its counterpart in Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles, and F's version in turn clearly underlies the nonsense printed in Q:

  • Hugh Capet also, that usurped the crown,
  • To fine his title with some show of truth,
  • When in pure truth it was corrupt and naught,
  • Conveyed himself as heir to the Lady Inger,
  • Daughter to Charles, the foresaid Duke of Lorraine;
  • So that, as clear as is the summer's sun,
  • King Pépin's title and Hugh Capet's claim,
  • King Charles his satisfaction all appear
  • To hold in right and title of the female.

The Lady Lingard was the daughter of Charlemain, not Charles the Duke of Lorraine; 'the foresaid Duke of Lorraine' has not in fact been mentioned at all; nor has King Pépin; nor has King Charles pg 22(presumably an error for King Louis, as in F; but Q has not mentioned Louis either).1

This combination of extraordinary features seems explicable only upon the assumption that Q is the result of a reconstruction by memory of the play as performed — as performed, moreover, in a severely abridged and adapted text, such as might have been used by a troupe of actors touring the provinces.2 Who assembled the reconstruction also seems reasonably clear: the speeches of Gower and Exeter, and (to a lesser degree) the scenes in which they appear singly or together, are markedly closer to F than the rest of the play.3 The text these men were acting in seems to have been adapted to the requirements of a cast of nine (or possibly ten) adults and two boy actors; some of Q's omissions (the Choruses, 3.1, and 4.2), its transposition of scenes 4.4 and 4.5, and a number of minor alterations in individual scenes all seem to derive from some such mechanical exigency. This fact also enables us to infer that the actor playing Gower almost certainly doubled one of the non-speaking parts in 1.2, one of the three traitors in 2.2 (probably Cambridge), and — more contentiously — Bourbon in 2.4 and 4.5.4 Since this means that both reporters were on stage in 1.2 and 2.2, it helps to account for the high quality of the text in those scenes; pg 23more generally, it helps to define more precisely which parts of Q are most reliable.

Because Q seems so clearly to constitute a reported or memorial text — what modern bibliographers, rather unfortunately, call a 'bad' quarto — recent editors have paid it little attention. Certainly the bulk of the readings in which it differs from F have no claim whatsoever on our attention; and though some of its omissions almost certainly derive from the practice of Shakespeare's own London company, and therefore arguably from Shakespeare himself, these potentially authoritative omissions are mixed in with so many of more dubious origin that an editor cannot regard them with any confidence — though he should, I think, as I have done in Appendix F, list the passages which are not in Q, and try to distinguish between the probable origins of such cuts, for the benefit of modern directors if no one else. Having said this, however, it remains equally obvious that Q represents a transcript of the text of Shakespeare's play by two men whose living depended on their memories, and who had acted in Henry V within a year or so of its first performance. This makes Q an historical document of far more authority than the hypotheses of any twentieth-century scholar.

Q's most striking characteristic, as a document, is the gross fluctuation in its standard of accuracy, a fluctuation entirely explicable and predictable from our reconstruction of the text's origin. Consequently, those parts of Q in which neither reporter was present (the Eastcheap scenes, the wooing in 5.2) do not have much authority; nor do those differences between Q and F which seem to result from limitations of cast in Q; nor do those adaptations which seem to result from a thoroughgoing attempt to simplify the play in order to make it more uncomplicatedly patriotic, and so more palatable to unsophisticated audiences (or audiences presumed to be so). Once we recognize the relative unreliability of these portions of Q, we are also in a position to pay proper attention to those parts of Q which do not suffer from these predictable liabilities.1 And if we also ignore the great bulk of pg 24variants — those in which Q's reading could very easily result from memorial substitution, while F's is not readily explicable either as a misreading or as a first version which has subsequently undergone purposeful dramatic or literary revision — then the variants which remain have a high claim to authority.1

At the very least, given the apparent illegibility of Shakespeare's foul papers, one would expect Q occasionally to correct misreadings in F; indeed, even those modern editors most loath on principle to make any use of Q have had to accept such Q readings in half a dozen places. But wherever Q's variant is explicable as the result of a misreading in one text or the other, the choice between Q and F is not between a 'good' and a 'bad' text, but only between two contemporary witnesses to a scrawl of letters in a lost Shakespearian original; and an editor's choice between the two must be based solely upon his reasoned evaluation of the relative merits of the alternatives — just as it would be in the case of variants between the Q and F texts of Troilus and Cressida or Othello.2 The same is true of variants which could be the result of simple and common compositorial errors, like the omission of single words or the transposition of adjacent ones.3

But though the scattering of such verbal variants throughout the play may cause an editor teacup anguishes of indecision, they will probably not bother many readers, or much affect their interpretation of the play. This is not true, however, of a number of other differences between Q and F. The most striking of these is Q's substitution in the scenes at Agincourt of the Duke of Bourbon for the Dauphin. No edition since 1623 has accepted Q's version (which happens to be historically accurate); yet Q's alternative is impossible to account for as an error of memory. Nor can it be attributed to the size of Q's cast. Any thought that it arose in adapting the play for provincial tastes can be immediately pg 25dismissed: if either version of Agincourt were subject to such suspicions, it would be F, not Q. Moreover, it is impossible to disentangle this change at Agincourt from two others earlier in the play. In both 2.4 and 3.5, Q but not F brings this same Duke of Bourbon on to the stage and (in 3.5) gives him something to say. The change to Bourbon thus appears to be a deliberate decision, its aesthetic corollaries in other scenes duly worked out. Finally, as we have already seen, F itself betrays signs of authorial indecision about this very issue.

The simplest explanation for all these facts is that Shakespeare, who in his own draft wavered about whether to include the Dauphin at Agincourt, eventually decided not to, reverted to his original intention (as spelled out in 3.5.64–6), put the Duke of Bourbon in the Dauphin's place, and altered 2.4 and 3.5 to accommodate this change. If we disregard for a moment our own familiarity with the Dauphin at Agincourt, it is easy enough to see why Shakespeare might have made the change. Bourbon, unlike the Dauphin, does not fade from the play at its climax, but leads the French counter-attack begun in 4.5, kills the boys, is captured and thereby humiliated. Equally important, the Dauphin's dramatic importance and his rank make him the inevitable focus of 3.7; in the play as we know it, the scene organizes itself around him, and consequently his arrogance becomes the keynote to our evaluation of all the French. To substitute Bourbon, a relatively new character surrounded by his social peers, radically reorganizes the energies of the scene: Bourbon is simply a single figure in a larger and more complicated pattern, one which includes the equally important scepticism and professionalism of the Constable; the silence and peacemaking of Rambures; the high spirits, common sense, and loyalty of Orléans; the sense of humour of all three. To minimize the import of the man who writes sonnets to his horse cannot but transform our entire dramatic impression of the French.

In accepting Q's version of Agincourt, this edition departs from the practice of all editors since 1623. But tradition cannot be the arbiter of textual authority; as evidence of Shakespeare's artistic intentions only two texts matter, those of 1600 and 1623. In replacing the Dauphin with Bourbon I have simply preferred one of these documents to the other, in the evaluation of a specific variant (or set of related variants). None of the agencies of corruption pg 26to which Q is in part subject can account for this variant; F on the other hand is itself on this point inconsistent. Moreover, although Q was printed first, all modern scholarship agrees that it represents a later stage of the text. We have every reason to expect — on the evidence of other Shakespearian texts, of other Elizabethan and Jacobean playwrights, and of theatrical history in all times and places1 — that an author's manuscript draft would have undergone some modification before the play reached the stage; in particular, if Shakespeare himself transcribed the fair copy which was modified to serve as the promptbook, the text would almost certainly have benefited from at least minor verbal and, conceivably, major dramatic revisions in the course of copying. It should hardly surprise us, therefore, that in certain cases Q should preserve Shakespeare's own improvements on the text printed in F.2 The fact that the various agencies of corruption inferrable in Q's transmission have deprived us of the great bulk of any minor verbal improvements Shakespeare may have made is regrettable;3 but this in no way relieves an editor of his responsibility to consider carefully all Q readings as possible revisions, and to accept them wherever (as with the Bourbon/Dauphin variant) they seem plausible authorial alterations difficult or impossible to account for as simple errors of transmission.

pg 27 Sources and Significances

Shakespeare's hesitations over the dramatic identity of the key French figure at Agincourt spring from a larger division in the sources of his historical material: the Tudor chronicles, which agreed that the Dauphin was not present, and the dramatic tradition of the late 1580s and 1590s, which had seized upon the Dauphin as an attractive anti-type to Henry, the theatrical embodiment of an English audience's favourite prejudices about the French.1 In Famous Victories the Dauphin may not be physically present at Agincourt, but Henry ensures that he remains prominent dramatically:

henry … But I pray thee what place hath my lord Prince Dauphin

Here in battle.

herald … An it please your grace,

My lord and king his father

Will not let him come into the field.

henry Why then he doth me great injury.

I thought that he and I should have played at tennis together,

Therefore I have brought tennis balls for him —

But other manner of ones than he sent me.

And herald, tell my lord Prince Dauphin

That I have inured my hands with other kind of weapons

Than tennis balls, ere this time o' day,

And that he shall find it ere it be long.

And so adieu my friend.

And tell my lord that I am ready when he will.       (1064–78)

The natural corollary of this continuing emphasis on the rival claimant to the French throne comes in the triumphant and humiliating climax of the final scene, as first the French king and then the Dauphin are compelled to kneel to Henry. Nashe's singling out of this scene (or a similar scene in another play) testifies to its extraordinary impact on Elizabethan audiences.

The Dauphin's presence at Troyes and his oath of fealty there are as unhistorical as Henry's continuing preoccupation with him at Agincourt; actually including him (as does the Folio text) in the French army that Henry defeats only takes this dramatic tradition one step further, and Shakespeare may or may not have been the pg 28first to do so (or to contemplate doing so). In any case, Shakespeare in 1599 had a clear choice between the chronicles, which placed little emphasis on the Dauphin, and his theatrical predecessors, who had turned the entire French campaign into a game of international one-upmanship, with Henry guaranteed the last laugh. In leaving out the oaths of allegiance at Troyes Shakespeare must have known that he would be disappointing a significant portion of his audience, and at the same time depriving himself and his fellow actors of an easy theatrical climax. That he nevertheless did so shows the same courage of artistic self-denial as the subsequent decision to remove the Dauphin from the last half of the play altogether.

But if in respect to the Dauphin Shakespeare rejected The Famous Victories, elsewhere he borrowed several ideas either from the printed text or from the original which that text debases: the wooing scene between Henry and Catherine (5.2.98–271), which owes almost nothing to history; the complete omission of Henry's second campaign (1417–20); Pistol's encounter with Le Fer, based upon a similar scene in The Famous Victories between a Frenchman and a cowardly English clown; and Henry's reception of the Dauphin's tennis balls, which agrees with the earlier play in its verbal detail as well as its timing.1 All these features contribute to the comic and romantic side of the play: beginning the war with triumphant tit-for-tat, making the victory at Agincourt not only unhistorically conclusive but also an occasion of good clean fun; interposing a farcical scene between Henry's victory and the spectacle (perennially popular) of a royal romance, so that the play closes with comedy rather than military conflict.

For his more serious political material Shakespeare undoubtedly drew upon Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles (1587) and Edward Hall's The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancaster and York (1548) — books he had already turned to for earlier history plays. Shakespeare's acquaintance with half a dozen other accounts of Henry's reign has been claimed by one scholar or another, but his possible familiarity with at least two lost plays on Henry, and his certain familiarity with a third which we know only in a debased form, make it impossible to establish whether these pg 29perceived influences are direct or secondhand. Some of the alleged debts would, in any case, hardly be worth contesting in the smallest of claims courts. The possible influence of Elmham's Liber Metricus consists of Henry's invocation of 'Saint George' at Harfleur (3.1.34) and his reference to 'rainy marching' before Agincourt (4.3.112) — Elmham specifying that it rained the night before the battle (when the English were no longer marching) while Hall and Holinshed only record that it had been raining throughout the march from Harfleur. Pseudo-Elmham's Vita et Gesta Henrici Quinti, John Stow's Annals, and Titus Livius's Vita Henrici Quinti have all been invoked to account for Shakespeare's description (5.0.9–20) of the crowds of people who came out to welcome a king returning home after an astonishing military victory abroad. Pseudo-Elmham has also been invoked to explain the kiss which Henry gives Catherine at the end of the wooing scene. The sole evidence for Shakespeare's consultation of Caxton's Brut lies in his calling cannonballs 'gunstones' at 1.2.255; without Brut, Henry would presumably have been reduced to the bathetic repetition of 'Hath turned your balls to cannonballs.'1 Even the best-supported of these proposed influences, the Henrici Quinti Angliae Regis Gesta, really shows itself only in two round numbers — 'but one ten thousand of those men in England' (4.3.17) and 'now thou hast unwished five thousand men' (4.3.76) — in a scene which, characteristically of Shakespeare, bandies numerals around with no consistency whatsoever.

But Shakespeare indisputably read both Holinshed and Hall. Since Holinshed drew heavily upon Hall, the two overlap in many places, but only Holinshed mentions that French countermining at Harfleur 'somewhat disappointed the Englishmen' (as at 3.3.3–9), or that one of Henry's nobles at Agincourt wished aloud for more men (as at 4.3.16–18), or that a French nobleman in his haste took a banner from a trumpet and fastened it to his spear (as at 4.2.61–2), or that Henry threatened the French cavalry (as at 4.7.52–7). Shakespeare's Salic Law speech paraphrases Holinshed's more condensed version, in places almost word for word (see Appendix D). On the other hand, even in that speech Shakespeare twice uses Hall's spelling 'Elve' for Holinshed's (and modern) 'Elbe'; the dialogue between the Archbishop's Salic Law speech and his pg 30description of the bee kingdom (1.2.100–83) follows Hall in a series of particulars, as does the Constable's description of the English army (4.2.16–37); and there are convincing verbal parallels with Hall in half a dozen other places.1 Moreover, as we should expect, Shakespeare evidently read all the chapter on Henry's reign in both chronicles, including their accounts of material he eventually chose not to dramatize: for instance, both the presence of Irishmen in Henry's army and the picture of 'famine, sword, and fire' crouching at his heels (Prologue 6–8) are taken from the accounts of his siege of Rouen.

Apart from quietly satisfying an idle biographical curiosity, the knowledge that in the winter of 1598–9 Shakespeare read and probably reread the relevant pages of these two chronicles sometimes proves useful in determining the text,2 or in elucidating otherwise puzzling phrases. The Chorus's peculiar reference to the sea on Henry's return to England, behaving 'like a mighty whiffler fore the king' which 'seems to prepare his way' (5.0.11–13), probably derives from the historians' descriptions of how, before Henry's return to France for his second campaign, the English navy scoured the channel in order to rid it of enemy ships; like a whiffler, this expedition was armed, went in advance of the King, and cleared his path of those lying in wait for him. Likewise, neither Hall nor Holinshed supports Henry's claim that

  • Five hundred poor have I in yearly pay
  • Who twice a day their withered hands hold up
  • Toward heaven to pardon blood. And I have built
  • Two chantries, where the sad and solemn priests
  • Sing still for Richard's soul.
  • (4.1.286–90)

But Hall describes how, after the politically motivated murder of the Duke of Burgundy, his body was dug up and honourably buried by his son (lxxv), and subsequently in Paris 'for the murder of Duke John … the other part made divers offers of amends, as well of foundations of priests to pray for the soul …' (lxxvi). Henry was present both at the siege in which Burgundy's body was recovered pg 31and at the formalities in Paris; and the conflux of associations with Richard II's death (murder by a political rival, reburial by a son, religious foundations established as recompense) makes it most likely that Shakespeare has accidentally or deliberately confused the reburials of Burgundy and Richard — or, at the least, that Burgundy triggered an inaccurate memory of something he had read or heard elsewhere.1 Less speculatively, certain historical errors in the play can be clearly attributed to misprints or blunders in the chronicles.2

Resemblances to the chronicles establish Shakespeare's use of them; but, as always, his departures from his sources most illuminate his intentions. By suppressing the madness of Charles VI and the political divisions among the French nobility (which, between them, made Henry's conquest possible), Shakespeare magnifies Henry's opponents and so the scale of his achievement; by ignoring the agreement of Hall and Holinshed that Harfleur was sacked, he emphasizes Henry's clemency, in striking contrast to the ferocity of his preceding threats;3 by leaping over the extreme difficulty Henry had in crossing the Somme — dogged as he was by a large French army, which destroyed all the bridges and blocked with its own superior numbers all the available crossings — Shakespeare suppresses the strategic blunder which cornered Henry at Agincourt in the first place.4 Likewise, the confusion which Shakespeare accidentally or deliberately created about the route of Henry's march to Harfleur5 gives the impression that the march to Calais ordered at the end of 3.3 is a simple withdrawal, a virtual pg 32admission of defeat, rather than in part a provocative sortie; while the transformation of Isabel from the dissolute and treacherous figure of history into the moderate, gracious, dignified queen of 5.2 helps to summon up the social world of peace, love, and civilization which the play has until then excluded.

In such cases Shakespeare simply disregarded his historical sources or turned them inside out. His treatment of the killing of the French prisoners is much more complex. Even the inclusion of this incident is revealing: Famous Victories omits it (but nevertheless includes the French attack which provoked it). This squeamishness has been echoed in all but the most recent productions of Shakespeare's play, and I believe that I am the first editor to specify that the prisoners should be killed on stage, though the text unequivocally implies this, having brought the prisoners on for no other discernible purpose. The unwillingness of playwrights, producers, and editors to show Henry's order being carried out rather belies the scholarly defence of it as an obvious military necessity no Elizabethan would have condemned. It is true that Henry's order had been and would continue to be defended by theoreticians and soldiers;1 equally true that an English general in Ireland had recently, with much less justification, followed Henry's example.2 But legal arguments and prose descriptions of far-away wars are one thing; seeing such an order carried out in front of your eyes is something else. As Hall said, 'pity it was to see and loathsome it was to behold how some Frenchmen were suddenly sticked with daggers, some were brained with poleaxes, some were slain with mallets, other had their throats cut and some their bellies paunched' (lv). Shakespeare, who had read Hall and had himself written 'To see sad sights moves more than hear them told' (Lucrece 1324), could hardly have failed to realize how strongly audiences would respond to the cold-blooded atrocity he calls them to witness.

That coldbloodedness is Henry's personal — and decisive — contribution to the victory. George Calvert's 1872 production inserted, between the offstage alarum and Henry's order, the first few lines of the following scene, in which Fluellen and Gower describe pg 33the killing of the boys and the burning of the camp; this single transposition turns the atrocity into a theatrically simple but morally indefensible act of revenge. In Shakespeare's text Henry does not know that the French counter-attack will begin and/or end with a raid on the English baggage train; he does not know that the French have killed or will kill the boys; he acts, dispassionately, simply in order to save his small army, which cannot afford to guard the prisoners while at the same time resisting a second French attack. In this Shakespeare clearly follows Holinshed's order of events: an initial English victory results in the capture of large numbers of French prisoners; a second French attack necessitates the killing of those prisoners: another English victory results in the taking of some more prisoners — and yet there are still enough French in the field for Henry to wonder whether he will be attacked again, and again have to 'cut the throats of those we have' (and of any more they take in the next battle). By such means Shakespeare dramatizes, rather than merely announces, the enormous disparity of numbers at Agincourt; we experience the scale of the English victory, rather than being told about it.

Yet the key to this victory is Henry's coldblooded murder of the defenceless French prisoners. Shakespeare makes Henry's coolness absolutely clear in the following scene, when Henry enters saying 'I was not angry since I came to France | Until this instant' (4.7.50–1). That scene had begun with a description of the savagery of the French attack and continued with a long comparison between Henry and Alexander the Great: Alexander killed his best friend in a rage, but Henry turned away Falstaff 'in his right wits and his good judgements'. It has been claimed that this comparison magnifies sober Henry over the drunkard Alexander.1 But though drunkenness may be a vice, emotionally and in law it mitigates Alexander's responsibility for the murder of Cleitus; Henry's rejection of Falstaff, which 'killed his heart' (2.1.84), repels us precisely because of its sober, premeditated coldness. Shakespeare takes the killing of the prisoners from his sources; but the juxtaposition of this cold, disturbing, and yet undeniably necessary act with the equally cold, equally disturbing rejection of Falstaff is entirely his own. The inference could hardly be clearer: only a man capable of the one could have been capable of the other, and pg 34only a man capable of both could have become the hero-king of Agincourt.

But the play's greatest crux of interpretation involves, not a departure from or addition to or conflation of his sources, but an instance of almost slavish dependence upon one of them: the Archbishop's discussion of the Salic Law, a speech — reproduced almost word for word from Holinshed — on which depends our judgement of the justice of Henry's claim to the French throne, and so of the war on which he embarks. This speech, 'unrivalled for tediousness' in the entire canon,1 has usually been explained in one of two ways: either the greatest playwright in the language, engrossed for once in an entirely uncharacteristic pursuit of historical accuracy, did not realize that in the theatre the speech would be difficult or impossible to follow; or he wished to make convoluted to the point of absurdity the legal arguments of the Archbishop — arguments accepted not only by the chroniclers but by all English and some international jurists, and which formed the basis of continuing English claims to Calais and other French territory. Elizabeth's own claim to the English throne, as well as the claim of her probable (and eventual) successor, James VI of Scotland, depended upon the legitimacy of female succession; in particular, as contemporary polemicists had not failed to point out, if Henry V's claim to France was valid, so too was James VI's claim to England.2 Parody of the Archbishop's argument would have been, to say the least, uncharacteristically indiscreet.

That arguments about the Salic Law could be made to appear ridiculous is proven by an elaborate satire of them in John Fletcher's The Noble Gentlemen (c.1623–6):

  • Sir, you shall know
  • My love's true title, mine by marriage.
  • Setting aside the first race of French kings,
  • Which will not here concern us, as Pharamond,
  • With Clodion, Merov, and Chilperik,
  • And to come down unto the second race,
  • Which we will likewise skip …
  • … of Martell Charles,
  • pg 35The father of King Pépin, who was sire
  • To Charles, the great and famous Charlemagne,
  • And to come to the third race of French kings,
  • Which will not be greatly pertinent in this cause
  • Betwixt the king and me, of which you know
  • Hugh Capet was the first,
  • Next his son Robert, Henry then, and Philip,
  • With Louis and his son a Louis too,
  • And of that name the seventh, but all this
  • Springs from a female, as it shall appear.
  • (3.4.94–115)

Fletcher's satiric intent could hardly be more blatant; equally there could not be a better demonstration of the mildness of Shakespeare's irony — if irony it is. Henry V's own stage history confirms this contrast with Fletcher. In order to turn Shakespeare's speech into a consciously comic exercise in musty fustian Olivier had to interpolate a string of visual jokes: Canterbury burdened with papers, losing his place, dropping them, everyone winding up on the floor sorting them out. If Shakespeare meant to make Canterbury's speech complicated to the point of absurdity, Fletcher and Olivier could have taught him a thing or two.

In defence of the Archbishop's speech it has been noted that Shakespeare's audience would have been interested in the Salic Law (as we are not) and accustomed to listening to long and intellectually complex sermons (as we are not);1 it has also been observed that, although such dynastic justifications of military conquest seem to us wholly trumped-up and chimerical, the legitimacy of a king's (or a nobleman's) inheritance was the foundation of the entire political and social system of medieval and Renaissance Europe.2 But such partial apologies do not go far enough: the speech's reputation for tedium has become such a critical commonplace that reports of its obscurity have been greatly exaggerated.

The key to the entire dynastic argument is 'Charles the Great', a name which has for modern audiences no meaning and no pg 36historical context; as a result all the other subsidiary names mentioned in passing float in an intellectual and historical vacuum. If one substitutes 'Charlemagne' for 'Charles the Great', an audience immediately knows where it is; Charlemagne, one of the great figures of early European history, is the lodestone to which the argument again and again returns, the fountainhead of the legitimacy of the French monarchy. For the Elizabethans the French 'Charlemagne' and the anglicized 'Charles the Great' were used indifferently for this historical figure;1 for modern listeners only the French form has any meaning. The same is true to a lesser extent of other figures. Louis IX we now know as 'Saint Louis', an honorific the English seemed loath to grant him, but which lends an immediate pertinence to the Archbishop's references to his conscience; Pépin and Clotaire were familiar enough as ancient French kings to be alluded to, in passing, in Henry VIII (1.3.10); Dukes of Lorraine had figured in four popular plays of the 1590s.2 The ability of an audience to follow such arguments depends crucially upon its familiarity with at least some of the terms of reference, a familiarity which has evaporated since 1599.

Likewise, an audience's willingness to grapple with the details of an argument depends upon the social context of an utterance, and the intellectual reflexes it stimulates; describing the 1975 Royal Shakespeare Company production, Richard David remarks upon how much 'more pungent and intelligible' the Salic Law was 'when presented (in full, too) by a dapper salesman in gent's lightweight suiting' instead of 'by any archbishop in full canonicals'.3 We expect from archbishops (in the theatre at least) either bland vacuousness or theological contortions; we expect legal arguments and policy statements to be made by dapper salesmen in lightweight suits. Again, our social assumptions — which are not Shakespeare's — seriously affect the quality of attention we expect to have to pay to Canterbury. And the demands upon our attention are themselves seriously affected by at least one textual variant pg 37which has been generally ignored. The arithmetical blunder in the middle of the speech (ll. 63–7; taken over from Holinshed who took it over from Hall) is completely omitted by Q, which reports the first half of the speech reasonably well; the omission might be accidental, or it might be unauthoritative, but if anyone were attempting to clarify the argument this single digression of four lines would be the best and most obvious passage to cut.

The speech is therefore not the nonpareil of specious convolution some critics claim; but it is undeniably dry, unpoetic, and complex. This does not, however, make it undramatic — any more than Shakespeare's close verbal dependence on Holinshed makes it so, or demonstrates Shakespeare's lack of interest in it. The list of French and English dead at Agincourt, an even closer paraphrase of Holinshed, can be deeply moving in performance.1 In both cases, Shakespeare chose to follow Holinshed so closely — as, in both cases, Famous Victories did not — and presumably he did so for a reason.

How does one establish, dramatically, that a claim to France has legal authority? The essence of legality is the unemotional, syntactically precise citation of historical precedents, precedents of no interest and relatively little intelligibility in themselves; this essence the Archbishop supplies. If an audience begins to grow impatient during this demonstration, that too is dramatically useful, indeed dramatically necessary. The play as a whole will rise in places to a pitch of ringing exhilaration; any audience at all familiar with the story will expect this from the beginning, and the Prologue offers a foretaste of just such exhilaration, with promises of more to come. But the play proper begins in the most downbeat manner possible, with the opening dialogue of the two bishops and then the long, dry examination of the Salic Law. Without this initial restraint, the play would begin at a pitch it could hardly surpass, and which if monotonously sustained would quickly become both uninteresting and unbelievable. The rhetorical thrill of Henry's reply to the Dauphin, which closes Act One, directly depends upon the frustratingly slow pace and low key with which that Act begins.

In claiming that the speech is both comprehensible and pg 38dramatically necessary, I do not mean to imply that an audience completely trusts the Archbishop himself; after the opening scene it can hardly do so. That scene, the knowledge it gives us of an ulterior ecclesiastical motive for supporting the war, in fact reinforces our need to take the speech seriously; it lends a dynastic argument dramatic interest, by making us suspect and look for personal motives showing through it. Henry himself is equally suspicious of him, as his initial adjuration to the Archbishop, and his curt question afterwards ('May I with right and conscience make this claim?'), both demonstrate; yet those in the audience who have seen 2 Henry IV must also be slightly suspicious of Henry himself. His dying father's advice, near the end of the earlier play, to 'busy giddy minds | With foreign quarrels' (4.5.214–15), may not have been uppermost in every spectator's mind, and some spectators would not have known of it at all; but it casts a shadow upon the Salic Law speech precisely because, when Henry IV gave that advice, every spectator must have known then that Henry V was famous for his success in just such a foreign quarrel. On the other hand, Henry has in a sense taken his father's advice before the play opens; he has already laid claim to some French dukedoms, a claim to which the French will reply in the embassy we know to be waiting just offstage — and we can guess what that answer will be 'Before the Frenchman speak a word of it'. The question at issue now is whether to press a larger claim to the French crown; Henry can have his foreign quarrel without going as far as that. As has often been noticed, Henry has more scruples and objections to the enterprise than anyone else on stage. Having exploited a certain suspicion about the motives of both parties in order to ensure an audience's distanced, cautious, intellectual attention to the Archbishop's exposition of the validity of Henry's claim, Shakespeare does not confirm those suspicions, but labours to allay them. The Archbishop may have ulterior motives, but Henry's claim seems valid nevertheless; Henry may be looking for a fight, but not necessarily this fight or any fight he cannot morally justify to himself and others.

The pattern of our reactions to Henry's decision to claim the French crown anticipates the pattern of our reactions to his ultimatum to Harfleur and his killing of the French prisoners. In each case, Shakespeare first makes us suspicious of or repelled by an action, and only afterwards justifies, emotionally at least, pg 39Henry's behaviour. Here the Dauphin's insult convinces an audience that the French deserve what Henry has decided to give them; at Harfleur 'Use mercy to them all' and the discovery that Henry was bluffing transform our responses to his vicious ultimatum; at Agincourt the senseless French atrocity of the killing of the boys emotionally justifies, retrospectively, Henry's necessary atrocity in killing the prisoners.

The Archbishop's argument has attracted attention not only because of the dramatic difficulties surrounding it, but because our judgement of its validity will crucially influence our response to a sequence later on, closer to Agincourt, and therefore more likely to affect our reaction to the play's climactic victory. This is the conversation, on the eve of the battle, between Henry and three of his soldiers, in which Henry's offhand allusion to the King's 'cause being just and his quarrel honourable' (4.1.122) is unexpectedly challenged. Henry's subsequent defence of himself is regarded by most modern critics as wholly unsatisfactory.1 He does not even attempt to prove that his cause is just and his quarrel honourable.

But neither the audience nor the soldiers want Henry to rehearse the Archbishop's dynastic argument; no reasoned defence of Henry's claim is called for or expected.2 Williams simply retorts that the legitimacy of the claim is 'more than we know', to which Bates adds 'Ay, or more than we should seek after' (4.1.124–5). They do not ask for legal arguments; they simply assert that, like common soldiers in all ages, they must take the legitimacy of a war largely on trust, since even if explanations are offered they are ill-equipped to assess their validity. They are in any case only interested in the justice of the King's cause insofar as it affects them, and it affects them only in respect to whether they 'die … contented'. Hence Bates's confidence that 'if his cause be wrong, our obedience to the King wipes the crime of it out of us'. Henry never denies this. But Williams proceeds to an assertion of far greater responsibility:

I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle, for how can they charitably dispose of anything when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the King that led them to it, who to disobey were against all proportion of subjection.

pg 40Few die well in a battle: not because of the justice or injustice of their king's cause, but simply because they die fighting. Therefore, the king is responsible for their damnation, simply by virtue of having 'led them to it', regardless of the justice of his cause. Williams's vision, of the legs and arms and heads that join together at the latter day, is apocalyptic, and the expression not so much of a fear of death as a fear of damnation. This is the claim Henry undertakes to answer.

So, if a son that is by his father sent about merchandise do sinfully miscarry upon the sea, the imputation of his wickedness, by your rule, should be imposed upon his father that sent him; or if a servant under his master's command transporting a sum of money, be assailed by robbers and die in many unreconciled iniquities, you may call the business of the master the author of the servant's damnation. But this is not so. The King is not bound to answer the particular endings of his soldiers, nor the father of his son, nor the master of his servant; for they purpose not their deaths when they propose their services.

These similes have been dismissed as distortions. But a general does not purpose the deaths of his soldiers; he will, in fact, by every means at his disposal, minimize his losses. Naturally, it seems to us that the risk of death is incommensurably greater for a soldier than a salesman. But in Shakespeare's age war was not yet so efficient, so comprehensively lethal, as it has since become; the risks of transatlantic commerce were phenomenally greater. Critics have applied twentieth-century fatality statistics to a sixteenth-century simile. More important, these comparisons are only the prelude to Henry's argument. To their fears of damnation Henry replies that the king does not purpose their deaths, and that, should they die, their salvation or damnation will depend on the state of their own souls, not the conduct of the king. Henry does not deny the king's responsibility for the justice of his cause, nor does he deny that some (or even many) of his soldiers will die. But he does deny responsibility for the state of their individual souls.

Henry and Historical Romance

Unlike the Archbishop's refutation of the Salic Law, the King's encounter with his soldiers on the eve of Agincourt does not derive from Hall, Holinshed, or The Famous Victories of Henry V. But George Steevens compared some lines in the preceding Chorus pg 41with the Latin Annals of Tacitus; this was translated by R. Grenewey in 1598, and Geoffrey Bullough reprints several passages from that translation, classifying it as a definite 'source' — a status he otherwise awards to only the two Tudor chroniclers and Famous Victories. The key parallel is a brief description of Germanicus visiting his troops:1

Being therefore at a jump to hazard all, thinking it convenient to sound the soldiers' mind[s], he bethought himself what was the fittest expedient to try the truth … their minds would be best known when they were by themselves, not overlooked; in eating and drinking they would utter their fear or hope. As soon as it was night, going out at the Augural gate, accompanied with one alone, in secret and unknown places to the watch, casting a savage beast's skin on his back, he went from one place to another, stood listening at the tents, and joyeth in the praise of himself: some extolling the nobility of their captain, others his comely personage, many his patience and courtesy; that in sports and serious matters, he was still one man; confessing therefore that they thought it their parts to make him some requital in this battle, and sacrifice the traitors and peace-breakers to revenge and glory.

But Anne Barton has since pointed out that Germanicus is a mere eavesdropper, who never attempts a personal encounter with his men, and that Henry's behaviour has many far more striking analogues in other plays of the 1590s, in which a disguised king comes face to face with his subjects. In all these plays — George a Green, the Pinner of Wakefield (c. 1590), Edward I (c. 1591), Fair Em (c. 1590), The True Chronicle History of King Leir (c. 1590), The First Part of King Edward IV (before 1599) — and almost certainly in others now lost, the King's disguise 'demands to be seen as a romantic gesture … king and unsuspecting subject meet time after time and discover unanimity of opinion and mutual respect'.2 Shakespeare would have been extraordinarily and uncharacteristically insensitive not to realize that his audience would see Henry's incognito encounters in 4.1 in the light of this dramatic tradition, so strongly associated with the 'comical-historical' plays of the same decade; but, as Dr Barton shows, judged by such criteria the encounter does not go according to plan. Pistol ends up pg 42cursing Henry; Fluellen and Gower do not talk to or about him at all; the three soldiers fear for their lives, question the justice of Henry's cause and the honesty of his disclaimers about being ransomed, and finally (in the case of Williams) challenge him to a fight; Henry rounds off the whole sequence with bitter reflections upon the gap between king and subject, and the intolerable burden which the led place upon their leaders. Dr Barton's 'source' for the scene is not only intrinsically almost certain to have influenced Shakespeare himself; it must also have influenced his audiences, creating expectations which Shakespeare goes out of his way to disappoint.

There are other reasons for discounting both the Tacitus parallel and certain similarities with an episode in Xenophon's Anabasis, which has also been offered as a source for 4.0 and 4.1.1 Even the monumental labours of T. W. Baldwin have been unable to provide a single instance of Shakespeare's indebtedness to either Tacitus or Xenophon;2 the latter was not available in English translation; outside this passage no other parallel with Grenewey's translation of the Annals has been found. Equally important, Henry (unlike Germanicus) is not attempting to 'sound the soldiers' mind[s]' in order to decide whether or not to launch an attack: regardless of the morale of his army, it will have to fight.

Indeed, on closer examination it seems doubtful whether Henry intends to sound their minds at all. The Chorus describes 'the royal captain of this ruined band' going from watch to watch, cheering his soldiers — cheering them, unmistakably, in propria persona, as their king.

  • For forth he goes and visits all his host,
  • Bids them good morrow with a modest smile
  • And calls them brothers, friends, and countrymen.
  • Upon his royal face there is no note
  • How dread an army hath enrounded him;
  • Nor doth he dedicate one jot of colour
  • Unto the weary and all-watchèd night.
  • But freshly looks and overbears attaint
  • With cheerful semblance and sweet majesty,
  • That every wretch, pining and pale before,
  • Beholding him, plucks comfort from his looks.
  • (4.0.32–42)

pg 43At the beginning of the next scene we see Henry talking to three of his nobles; he then asks to borrow Erpingham's cloak, and explains that 'I and my bosom must debate awhile, | And then I would no other company' (4.1.32–3). This is the only explicit explanation ever offered for Henry's 'disguise'; the desire for solitude — to which might be added, on the basis of what he later says about his 'bed majestical' (4.1.255), the simple fact that he can't sleep for worry. Nor does Henry seek out his soldiers: Pistol, as Q's stage direction and the dialogue itself make clear, approaches Henry (who seems to do his best to get rid of him); Henry stands apart and makes no attempt to speak with Fluellen and Gower; the three soldiers first accost him. Nor does he attempt to cheer his men; rather the reverse. The difference between the Folio and Quarto texts is particularly illuminating here. The Folio reads:

williams … Who goes there?

king A friend.

williams Under what captain serve you?

king Under Sir Thomas Erpingham.

williams A good old commander and a most kind gentleman. I

pray you, what thinks he of our estate?

king Even as men wrecked upon a sand, that look to be washed

off the next tide.

bates He hath not told his thought to the King?

king No, nor it is not meet he should …


The Quarto (its dialogue more heavily adapted in this passage than anywhere else in the play) substitutes:

king Now masters, good morrow. What cheer?

williams I' faith, small cheer some of us is like to have, ere this

day end.

king Why, fear nothing, man. The King is frolic.

bates Ay, he may be, for he hath no such cause as we.

king Nay, say not so ..

(D4, 18–23)

Here, as in some other omissions and alterations I have already discussed (p. 12), the Quarto has clearly been adapted and debased to make it conform to the very expectations about Henry which previous plays would have aroused. The Quarto has Henry approach the soldiers, whereas in the Folio they speak first; it pg 44replaces Henry's gloomy (and false) report of Erpingham's opinion with the self-evident morale-building of 'What cheer?' and 'fear nothing, man'; it tells us (what the Folio gives no hint of) that the King himself 'is frolic'. In the Folio Henry enters the conversation in earnest only with the first mention of 'the King', and of what he knows or should be told.1

It is not just that Henry fails to establish contact to the degree that would have been expected; he does not even seek it. This is part of two larger patterns in the manner of his presentation. The first extends throughout the three plays in which he appears. Prince Hal begins as a man more at ease in Eastcheap than at the palace; a man who, unlike any of the other political leaders in the two parts of Henry IV, knows, associates with, and is loved by the 'common' people (in both the neutral and disreputable senses of that adjective). But his father's death, at the end of 2 Henry IV, brings this association to an abrupt, brutal, and apparently permanent close. Henry's political and personal dilemma at that juncture — which was also, perforce, Shakespeare's dramatic dilemma — is that he will be damned whatever he does: damned either for continuing his association with these disreputable characters, or for forgetting the people who knew and cared for him when he 'wasn't such a big shot'. Henry chooses to make a clean break with the past by a striking and presumably difficult act of will, the banishment of Falstaff. He therefore begins this play — as the opening dialogue of Canterbury and Ely forcibly reminds us — prominently and deliberately surrounded solely by nobles and high churchmen. There is no sign of the 'great multitude of the commons … assembled' to hear the French embassy (Hall, xlii).2

This isolation is the structural principle behind most of the first three Acts. To begin with, Shakespeare stretches out the decline and death of Falstaff, which could easily have been accommodated in one scene, into two, and then places these so that they are immediately juxtaposed with all but one of the main political scenes of Acts One and Two.3 Like the treatment of 4.1, this must have been a deliberate frustration of his audience's expectations — pg 45in this case, expectations he had himself created by the Epilogue to 2 Henry IV, in which the spectators were promised, 'If you be not too much cloyed with fat meat, our humble author will continue the story, with Sir John in it, and make you merry with fair Catherine of France; where, for anything I know, Falstaff shall die of a sweat, unless already he be killed with your hard opinions' (26–31). To me, 'die of a sweat' suggests that Shakespeare already knew what he wished to do to Falstaff in Henry V;1 certainly he was encouraging the audience to believe that they would see more of their fat friend in the sequel. Between the two scenes preparing for and reporting the death of this old friend, Shakespeare places Henry's reaction to the betrayal of his new 'bedfellow', Lord Scrope of Masham — a reaction so prolonged and excessive that it has almost never been performed in full.2 Henry's next appearance, in 3.1, consists of a single long speech by him to his (unindividuated) soldiers; the Eastcheap group, which is given a separate entrance after Henry and the others have charged off, is apparently not included. His next scene, 3.3, consists almost entirely of another long speech by Henry, this time to the (unmanned) walls of Harfleur.3 Finally, in 3.6, Shakespeare clearly makes Henry personally responsible for the execution of Bardolph — without Henry even acknowledging, publicly, that he does indeed 'know the man' (3.6.104).

Dr Johnson, at the end of 5.1, lamented that 'The comic scenes of the history of Henry the Fourth and Fifth are now at an end, and all the comic personages are now dismissed … I believe every reader regrets their departure'. But that regret must have been immeasurably stronger — and mingled with astonishment — for the audiences of 1599, who would have had every reason for confidence that those characters were as invulnerable as the conventions of comedy and the logic of commercial success could make them. Shakespeare not only kills these characters off, thereby freeing himself from the obligation to keep feeding the public pg 46appetite for a dish he was apparently tiring of. More important, so far as our interpretation of the play is concerned, he clearly makes Henry morally responsible for the deaths of two of them, Falstaff and Bardolph — and does so as part of a dramatic sequence which shows Henry increasingly burdened and isolated.

Henry's desire for solitude in 4.1 is a logical development from this; and the repeated frustration of that desire — by Pistol, Gower and Fluellen, the three soldiers, Erpingham, Gloucester — is made the pivot of Henry's personal and public history. Out of it comes, immediately, the 'band of brothers' speech In 4.3, which contrasts so remarkably, in its relaxed familiarity and confidence, with the desperate imperatives of 'Once more unto the breach' — and, equally remarkably, contrasts with the French nobles (and nobles only) of the preceding scene, so scornful of 'our superfluous lackeys and our peasants, | Who in unnecessary action swarm | About our squares of battle' (4.2.26–8). The English night scene also initiates Henry's rapport with Fluellen, a character who, before Agincourt, roundly criticizes the conduct of the siege of Harfleur but does not once extol or even speak of the king: as Henry praises him (without Fluellen knowing it) in 4.1, Fluellen extravagantly praises Henry in 4.7, where Henry's own Welshness (mentioned for the first time in 4.1) becomes an explicit bond between them, a bond which flowers into Fluellen's taking Henry's place in 4.8. Whether Williams himself is ever pacified, even after the arranged reconciliation of 4.8, every production of the play must decide for itself; but there can be no denying that, where the first half of the play isolates Henry, the second half — beginning, against his will, with 4.1 — throws him consistently into the company and, usually, the affection of others. Between 4.1 and 4.7, Erpingham, Warwick, York, Fluellen, all openly and explicitly express their devotion to and communion with him. And the final scene of the play is a consummation of union, political and personal, in which the images of ferocious rape in Henry's ultimatum to Harfleur are transformed into the language of courtship, sexual badinage, conception, and fertility.

The English night scene at Agincourt begins to repair the breach in himself (and in the sympathies of his audience) which Henry had opened by the banishment of Falstaff, so that by the end of the play he has at last harmonized his political and his private selves, the king's two bodies. But the scene is also pivotal to another major pg 47pattern in Henry's development, which might be described as Shakespeare's preoccupation with the nature and limitations of Will (a pun I will return to in a moment). From his first soliloquy in 1 Henry IV, the prince who will become King Henry the Fifth is unmistakably a man of immense self-possession and strength of will — a strength of will which will defeat Hotspur at the end of Part One and Falstaff at the end of Part Two. Having overcome these two great challenges to his destiny, at the beginning of this play Henry wills himself to conquer France, and to conquer it, to all intents and purposes, single-handed. He is not surrounded or supported by powerful nobles with strong dramatic personalities, but by a shifting and unalterably anonymous set of aristocrats who seem entirely dependent on his leadership. And it is no exaggeration to say that the play shows us Harfleur being conquered by, in essence, two speeches by Henry. His army is, in that first campaign, almost an encumbrance: the very iteration of 'Once more unto the breach … once more' tells us that their previous efforts have failed; the enemy has dug under the English mines; the Eastcheap platoon thinks better of a bloodthirsty charge and settles down to sing a few songs, until they are finally cudgelled into battle; the officers seem to spend their time discussing tactics and fighting among themselves. Once the town has surrendered, moreover, we learn that Henry's soldiers are sick and that winter is already coming on (which implies that it has taken them most of the summer to conquer this one city). After the extraordinary exercise of will in 3.1 and 3.3, Henry responds to the surrender of Harfleur not with triumphant exhilaration, but with a decision to retreat.

The surrender of Harfleur represents the triumph of one man's will over circumstance, a victory laboriously and painfully achieved; the astonishing triumph at Agincourt is England's victory and God's victory, not Henry's. This is of course why Shakespeare omits all reference to Henry's tactics — the concealment of his archers, the pointed staves used to protect them from the French horsemen, the narrow field between two copses which prevented the French from taking full advantage of their numbers. To give prominence to such details, or to Henry's personal combat with Alençon, would be to attribute the victory wholly to the personal actions and decisions of one man. Like Tolstoy in War and Peace (if not so dogmatically), Shakespeare suggests that pg 48epoch-making victories, victories on this scale, must owe more to spirit than firepower, are due as much to the character of a people as to the character of their leader. Hence, at Agincourt Henry does not even choose when, or where, or whether to fight; and in 4.1 he realizes — or the audience must — that the outcome depends as much upon the Pistols, Gowers, Fluellens, Williamses, Bateses, Courts, Erpinghams and Clarences and Gloucesters of the army as upon the King himself. It depends ultimately — as the sudden and unprepared leap into prayer at the end of the scene makes clear — upon God. Out of the night-scene's recognition of the variety of his army comes Henry's potent evocation of the 'names … familiar in his mouth as household words', names not only of men but of places, parts of England;1 out of that night's anguished recognition of his utter dependence on God comes the wonder of 'O God, thy arm was here' (4.8.104) — a line which demonstrates how easily, in performance, 'The platitudes of piety can become ultimate statements of overwhelming power'.2

Such patterns in Shakespeare's presentation of Henry have been obscured during most of the play's stage history. The confusion of Shakespeare's Henry with his historical counterpart, so noticeable in Hazlitt's essay, was characteristic of nineteenth-century productions of all Shakespeare's historical plays, English and Roman. The contrast between Harfleur and Agincourt particularly suffered from this archaeological enthusiasm, and from the attendant ambition to recreate battles convincing in scale and detail. In Charles Kean's 1859 revival3

the siege of Harfleur … is literally realized on the stage. There is the fitting and fixing the engines and guns under the walls of the town, and against its gates and towers — the blowing forth of stones by the force of ignited powders — the impetuosity and fury of the terrible attack — the scarcely less terrible repulse — the smoke, the confusion, the death, and all the horrors and darkness of the strife, in the midst of which the dauntless King urges on his followers to the breach, until the ruin of the French bulwark is accomplished.

pg 49

Charles Kean's Siege of Harfleur

1. Charles Kean's Siege of Harfleur (1859), designed by Grieve and Lloyds.

So staged — as, to a greater or lesser degree, it always was in the nineteenth century — the siege of Harfleur hardly leaves us with much impression of Henry's isolation, or suggests the relative unimportance, dramatically, of his army. Even when such spectacles became unaffordable and unfashionable 'the dauntless King' remained unchanged. F. R. Benson's many performances (1897–1916) were characterized by Benson's own pole-vault, in full armour, on to the walls of Harfleur, and by a playing style which Max Beerbohm compared to 'a branch of university cricket': 'Speech after speech was sent spinning across the boundary … But … cricket tends to exhaust in its devotees the energy which might otherwise be spent in cultivating imagination and sense of character.'1 Likewise, Lewis Waller (1900) made Henry, throughout the play, a 'dashing king': Waller 'would arrive upon the scene full tilt … He would lean against the farthest [backstage] wall, and, just before his actual cue came, give himself a push with his hand and travel towards the door, archway, or whatever it was through which he must go. He never just stepped pg 50upon the stage.'1 Both actors emphasized Henry's physical athleticism, not — as Shakespeare does — his intellectual leadership. Henry's unflinching description of the sickening devastation he will unleash if Harfleur does not surrender was, of course, emasculated; moreover, a full complement of Frenchmen was provided (by editors as well as theatrical managers) to listen to it, thereby filling the vacuum in which Shakespeare places Henry. If the French are on stage, facing the audience, we can hardly avoid watching their reactions to whatever of Henry's speech has been left; those reactions help to assure us, in advance, that the French will yield to the ultimatum, while making us conscious that the ultimatum is designed to produce just such reactions. Consequently we can, during the speech, realize that Henry is speaking for effect, and that the success of that effect will abort the savagery it conjures up. Shakespeare provides no such distractions from or assurances about Henry's threats; only after they are over does he tell us, through the abrupt change in Henry's tone and his decision to retreat, that the threats were in part hollow, that he was performing the part of a Tamburlaine, that he might not have been able to take the town at all if it had not surrendered. Henry's decision to retreat has itself been obscured, again in editions as well as in theatres, by rationalizing the confusion Shakespeare creates, from Act Three on, about the route of Henry's invasion. In 3.7, editors for a long time eliminated the reference to Henry's 'poor' soldiers, while in the theatre the English army entered in 'bright and new' armour.2 The effect of the night-scene was radically transformed by the simple expedient of having Henry, once disguised, approach Pistol, rather than being disturbed by him; or, if Pistol did come towards Henry, the tone of the encounter could be turned upside down by interpolating (as in the 1946 production at Stratford-upon-Avon) a single line, spoken aside: 'A friend', Paul Scofield's Henry told the audience, as someone entered and moved towards him, and then 'Oh', he said, comically, recognizing Pistol.3 We are at once back in the world of George a Greene and Fair Em.

Postwar productions have done much to restore the complex pg 51and sometimes disturbing figure Shakespeare must have intended. In the first place, the tendency to perform Henry V alongside Richard II and the two parts of Henry IV — or even, as in 1975, the two parts of Henry IV and The Merry Wives of Windsor — has again given audiences the necessary familiarity with and affection for Henry's former companions. Richard Burton is remembered for his reaction when Fluellen mentioned Bardolph's name; Alan Howard, in 1975, actually gestured his silent approval for the offstage execution, provoking the Boy to drop his cup and run offstage.1 Ian Holm's Henry (1964) was shorter and less impressive physically than many of the other actors around him; the English were no longer a cricket eleven but

a ragged army led by a leader at times almost desperate with fatigue. The heroism, where it exists, is found almost entirely in sheer dogged pugnaciousness. It is the heroism of the First World War trenches, of attrition, of unsung deeds done as a matter of course, and of men following a leader, not because he is a king, but because he is as tired and as stubbornly determined as they are.

This may have been, as Gareth Lloyd Evans complained, an anachronistic 'democratic twentieth-century heroism';2 equally, Howard's acclaimed interpretation of the 'queasy king' may have exaggerated Henry's own uneasiness with his role, thereby diminishing the queasiness he should provoke in an audience. But the demotic, complicated Henry of these recent productions takes us closer to the play than has any production since the Restoration.

However performed, Henry's scene in the English camp on the eve of Agincourt has always been admired; but only in the last three decades has its centrality, to the play and Henry, been fully realized theatrically. For if Henry is, from the beginning, liked and likable, at his ease, unperplexed and unperplexing, then the night-scene merely gives the actor another opportunity to display the same traits and excite the same reactions. Make Henry distant, isolated, occasionally disturbing, and the audience will yearn for, the play need, that 'little touch of Harry in the night': not just pg 52another touch, and even now only a little one, but still the play's first opportunity for that most intimate form of human contact, not a display but a touch.

Chapman, Epic, and the Chorus

Grenewey's Tacitus does little to illuminate Henry V or Henry V; altogether more pertinent is another translation published in 1598, George Chapman's Seven Books of the Iliads of Homer (fulsomely dedicated to Essex, 'the most honoured now living instance of the Achilleian virtues'). As it happens, George Steevens (who first suggested the link with Tacitus) also first noticed a verbal parallel with the Seven Books, comparing Shakespeare's 'this grace of kings must die' (2.0.28) with Chapman's 'wise Ithacus | The grace of kings' (1.322). Although editors regularly note this parallel, and although Shakespeare is known to have read Chapman's translation some time between its publication in 1598 and the composition of Troilus and Cressida (c.1602),1 the possibility of Chapman's influence on Henry V has never been followed up. This is surprising, since Shakespeare clearly encourages comparison of Henry with his classical counterparts: the three invocations of Alexander the Great (1.1.46, 3.1.19, 4.7.12–46) bob up alongside Fluellen's obsession with classical military history ('as magnanimous as Agamemnon'), Pistol's penchant for inane classical allusion ('Base Trojan, dost thou thirst | To have me fold up Parca's fatal web?'), and the more serious use of classical mythology from the very first lines of the play (O for a muse of fire … Assume the port of Mars … Hydra-headed … English Mercuries …).

Though there are, beyond these trappings of epic, half a dozen particular parallels with Chapman scattered through the play,2 these matter less than a whole cluster of similarities, in phrasing and situation, between the night-scene at Agincourt and that before Troy in books nine and ten of the Iliad.3 Without Achilles the Greeks have been driven back to the beach; apparently irre-pg 53sistible, the Trojans confidently expect that in the morning they will at last drive the Greek invaders back to their ships and set fire to the fleet. Afraid that their prey may escape, they encamp for the night outside the walls of Troy; Homer emphasizes the closeness of the two armies and the impression made by the fires of the Trojan camp.1

The situation of Shakespeare's English army derives from history, not Homer; but history gave Shakespeare neither action nor language to fill the dramatic interval between nightfall and sunrise. In Chapman's Homer, Agamemnon's 'troubled heart' (10.9) will not let him sleep; like Henry, he goes the rounds among his army, rousing and encouraging others, thinking it best to

  • confer and look to every guard
  • Lest watching long and weariness, with labouring so hard,
  • Drown their oppressèd memories of what they have in charge.
  • (10.83–5)

Like Henry, the 'royal captain … Walking from watch to watch' on this 'weary and all-watchèd night' in which

  • The hum of either army stilly sounds
  • That the fixed sentinels almost receive
  • The secret whispers of each other's watch,
  • (4.0.29–30. 38, 5–7)

Agamemnon too 'walks the rounds' of his army, and with his fellow 'captains … kept the watch the whole sad night, still with intentive ear|Converted to the enemies' tents' (10.78, 82, 162–4). In Shakespeare the night is 'poring dark' (4.0.2); in Chapman 'night repoured grim darkness' (10.175). In Shakespeare at 'the third hour of drowsy morning' the enemy are 'Proud of their numbers and secure in soul' (4.0.16–17); in Chapman they are a 'secure and drowsy host' (10.436–7).

After the Chorus has set the scene and described Henry's first, public visit to his troops, Shakespeare brings Henry on for a conversation with two of his brothers, followed by the entrance of a new character, 'old Sir Thomas Erpingham', an 'old heart' and 'a good old commander' (4.1.13, 35, 93): Agamemnon, after accidentally encountering his brother Menelaus, goes to see old pg 54Nestor, who speaks to him as cheerfully as Erpingham does to Henry (10.89–94). Henry wishes Erpingham could have 'A good soft pillow for that good white head' (4.1.14); Achilles had earlier called for 'A good soft bed, that the old Prince … Might take his rest' (9.584–5). Henry tells Erpingham that ''Tis good for men to love their present pains | Upon example. So the spirit is eased' (4.1.18–19); Agamemnon tells Nestor that 'Examples make excitement strong' (10.118), and we are later told that 'One spirit upon another works' (10.197). The leader of the English army, unrecognized, is then comically challenged by a soldier (4.1. 36); so is the leader of the Greek army (10.68).1

All of these parallels with Chapman come in the first hundred lines of Act Four.2 Chapman seems not to have influenced the middle of 4.1 — the encounters between Henry and his men — at all; for this part of the scene there were, as we have already seen, plenty of dramatic precedents. But the resemblances resume after the soldiers have left. Reflections upon the cares which burden a monarch's nights are so common that Henry's version of the theme hardly need be indebted to Chapman's (2.20–3); but Chapman's 'can command my knees' (9.573) is surprisingly like Shakespeare's 'Canst thou, when thou command'st the beggar's knee' (4.1.244). Finally, Henry prays before the battle just as Agamemnon does earlier (2. 395–403); and he is especially anxious that his army not be destroyed because of his own guilt or negligence — again, like Agamemnon (9.119–64).

The cumulative evidence that Shakespeare read Chapman's Seven Books before or while composing Henry V seems to me indisputable. Samuel Daniel, whose First Four Books of the Civil Wars very probably influenced the two parts of Henry IV, had described Henry's conquest of France as a theme 'Whence new immortal Iliads might proceed' (4.6); it should hardly surprise us that Shakespeare took some interest in a new translation of the Iliad, by pg 55a major poet and dramatist,1 published not long before he began work on Henry V. Nothing could be more typical than Shakespeare's fusion, in a sequence which owes nothing to the chronicles, of high literary culture and popular dramatic cliché; nothing could be more expressive of the artistic ambition with which he approached this play than his resort to Homer for likely material and inspiration.

But it would be unfortunate if Chapman's influence reinforced the critical commonplace that Henry V is 'epic' rather than 'dramatic' — an extraordinary assertion when one considers how much more successful the play has been with audiences than with readers. The fallacy apparently springs from two assumptions. First is the belief that Henry does not develop, or provoke different reactions at different times. For Henry's admirers he must, a priori, be uniformly and uneventfully exemplary, a compound of homogenized virtues, even if this requires them to note with regret that the result is 'undramatic'; for Henry's detractors his speeches are what Mark Van Doren2 called 'the golden throatings of a hollow God', hollow either because they seem hypocritical or because they offer no more than the uninteresting surface of an uninteresting character. Both views assume that we know from the outset everything we will ever know about Henry, and that the public and private Henry are identical — whereas to me he remains perpetually fascinating partly because his private self is visible only through the starts and fissures of his public one. Henry reveals himself through action rather than self-analysis; and for this the play is accused of being static.

The other assumption is that the structural device of the Chorus is inherently undramatic, and that the very apologies of the Chorus confirm this. The further suggestion that Shakespeare himself played the Chorus makes it even clearer that his speeches are to be taken as the poet's own direct confession to the audience about the meaning of his play and the Inadequacy of his medium. But we have, of course, no evidence that Shakespeare played the Chorus, and the Epilogue's reference to 'our bending author' seems explicitly to exclude the possibility.3 (There are, besides, other roles in pg 56the play which better fit what we know of his own acting.1) Nor need we take his apologies as reflections of a real sense of artistic dissatisfaction; rather the reverse. Much here depends upon tone of voice. Dover Wilson, for instance, tells us that — in contrast to Milton — Shakespeare 'can only sigh "O for a muse of fire!"' (p. xiv). The Pre-Raphaelite sigh — probably suggested by the Victorian and Edwardian practice of casting a woman as the Chorus2 — is of course Wilson's own stage direction, and not one that much commends itself to me. As Michael Goldman has observed in one of the finest recent essays on the play, the great speeches of the Chorus — like those of Henry — consist largely of excitations to extraordinary effort ('Work, work your thoughts!'), combined with narratives of great geographical, temporal, and emotional sweep, creating 'a sense of the size and energy of the subject, both of which are pictured as being held in with difficulty, barely restrained or contained'.3 Such narratives are no more 'undramatic' than Clytemnestra's great description of the beacons which brought her news of the fall of Troy; instead, like the imperatives to imaginative effort, they directly convey a sense of the packed energy and strength of purpose which overcomes the inertias of time and space. Shakespeare makes the energies of audience and cast express and suggest the magnitude of an historical achievement; the apologies magnify that achievement by admitting that the energies generated in a theatre fall far short of those required outside it. This is so obvious a statement of the actual relationship between life and art that one wonders how it could ever have been taken as a proof of despair rather than sanity. In practical terms, the modesty of the Chorus implies considerable confidence: in the theatre, one apologizes only for one's most reliable effects, while expressing the greatest possible confidence about anything wobbly.

Whether the device of a Chorus is by its nature undramatic depends entirely upon one's definition of 'drama'; but no one could pg 57claim that the Choruses are untheatrical. That David Garrick, Michael Redgrave, and (on the radio) John Gielgud chose to play the Chorus should be sufficient testimony to the role's attractions for an actor. However interpreted — Sybil Thorndike 'irresistible', with her 'hurried entrance', force, and urgency; Redgrave's distant, ceremonial, hieratic figure; Roger Livesey's energetic and expansive enthusiasm; Eric Porter's and later Ian Richardson's imitation of Shakespeare; Emrys James's quiet, deferential, discreet presenter1 — however interpreted, the Chorus is, as much as Henry and the rest, a character, one speaking some of the play's finest poetry on an otherwise empty stage to an audience's undivided attention.

Eighteenth-century literary theorists took exception to the device in principle, because it violated their neoclassical unities and broke down the obligatory barrier between stage and auditorium. Dr Johnson, for instance, complained that 'Shakespeare does not seem to set distance enough between the performers and spectators' and objected to 'the meanness of metaphor' in 'wooden O'.2 But the role's theatrical vitality springs from this very familiarity, from the rapport between the Chorus and his audience, of which Johnson complained. Likewise, nineteenth-century theatres found the Chorus an embarrassment because they actually did their damnedest to cram within their wooden Os the exact number of casques that did affright the air at Agincourt. Attempting the undoable, and creating in audiences an appetite for the unsuppliable, they were naturally nervous about any admission of a gap between reality and realism. Even those who kept the part excised from it any references to inadequacy of representation: typically, the century's most famous Chorus was represented as Clio, the muse of history, with painted panoramas at her command.3 Not until 1901, when William Poel produced the play with a small cast, no scenery, and Elizabethan costuming, did Henry V begin to return to the theatrical conditions for pg 58which the Chorus was designed. Shakespeare apologized for the absence of effects which his theatres never tried to supply and which his audiences consequently never really expected. If the Choruses express anything of Shakespeare's own personality, it is not artistic dissatisfaction but insouciance.

Characters and Roles

The critical subterfuge of elevating Henry V to the status of 'epic' as a prelude to damning it for being 'undramatic' justifies some scepticism about the utility of generic adjectives; but 'epic' the play self-evidently is in at least one sense: the social, national, and tonal variety of its characters. Modern discussions of the play tend to underestimate this. Typically of early nineteenth-century criticism, Hazlitt's influential attack on Henry virtually identified the play with the character of its protagonist; and though this popular recipe for mutilating plays has for the most part gone out of fashion, with Henry V it persists. Interpretation has increasingly restricted itself to what strategic theorists call a zero-sum game, which evaluates every tangent of the action in terms of its relevance to the overriding question 'For or against Henry?'

Henry of course dominates the play, but not so much as he has dominated criticism of it — or as he dominated Victorian productions. In these the century-long love-affair with Shakespeare's protagonists, combined with the self-aggrandizement of actor-managers and the fashion for scenic magnificence, reduced Henry V (like many other plays) to an historical spectacle in which minor roles were drastically abbreviated or omitted altogether in order to make room for hundreds of anonymous extras, who in turn were wholly subordinated to the leading actor,1

As … he stands in that spot so prized by the histrionic mind, the exact centre of the stage, the limelight pouring upon him from the flies its most dazzling rays, and declaims speech after speech to his devoted followers.

This particular description refers to George Rignold, who played Henry in an immensely popular production in Manchester, America, and London in the 1870s; but it reflects a tendency which persisted at least as far as the 1938 Drury Lane production by Lewis Casson, with Ivor Novello as the King.2 A review of John pg 59Coleman's 1876 production regrets 'that more attention was not devoted to the casting of the numerous small but important parts', and in 1839 Macready's distinguished company seems to have been corporately dismayed by the unappetizing parts the play offered them (including a Gower reduced to thirty lines).1 The play's forty-two speaking roles have sometimes, on such evidence, been labelled a dramatic liability, but in Shakespeare's own company many of the actors would have doubled two or more roles — a practice which not only encourages good actors to take small parts, but also ensures that the versatility of the performers who 'Into a thousand parts divide one man' (Prologue 24) becomes itself a source of theatrical delight, lending an unexpected and felt reality to Henry's evocation of 'We few, we happy few' (4.3.60).

The opportunities for dramatic impact in even the smaller roles have been consistently demonstrated in productions from the eighteenth century onwards. Exeter — whom Gordon Crosse in six decades of regular playgoing (1890–1952) had never seen given any individuality2 — was singled out for praise by reviewers of productions in the 1760s, in 1789, 1819, and 1859;3 Montjoy has received similar accolades in the eighteenth and the twentieth centuries.4 Both speak with confidence and dramatic authority, Exeter even refusing to desist when the French king rises to terminate their interview; it is to Exeter that Henry turns, after the surrender of Harfleur, for his first quiet, private speech in the play, and Exeter again who brings Henry word of the deaths of Suffolk and York. Montjoy is given the dramatic distinction of twice interrupting an exit by his own arrival; a reader might guess that his description of the French losses at Agincourt, and the subsequent admission that 'The day is yours' (4.7.65–81), can both be very moving, but other opportunities — for brusqueness in his first pg 60entrance, and later surprise at Henry's generosity; for 'a glance almost of complicity with Henry before Agincourt' that says 'We both have our jobs to do';1 for a perceptible change of tone in the personal and almost regretful 'Thou never shalt hear herald any more' (4.3.128) — lend the character an immediacy more apparent in the theatre than in the library. Likewise, even the (usually young) soldier Alexander Court, who asks 'is not that the morning which breaks yonder?' (4.1.84–5) and then says nothing for 130 lines, can make an unexpectedly vivid impression, when he is roused from his silence and self-absorption to leave with Bates and Williams. Williams too earns an audience's respect and assent almost immediately, and he emerges from all three of his encounters with the King with his dignity and moral authority unshaken: the issue in Act Four is whether Henry will live up to the standard set by Williams, not vice versa. Even Bates can make a sustained impression, especially if he appears among the regulars of the English army in other scenes: in 1975 'Dan Meaden's splendid Bates … even when he was a mere figure in the crowd, remained solid, upstanding, purposeful, the very picture of what in the 1914 — 18 war was called an "old sweat".'2 Both the very names of these three soldiers — Court, Bates, Williams, rather than Wart, Feeble, and Bullcalf — and the serious prose they are given to speak represent striking departures from the conventional Elizabethan portrayal of common soldiers.3

Some of the other serious parts are more difficult to make much of. The three traitors have sometimes been projected back into the deliberations of 1.2, to no discernible advantage. More successfully, the erratic profusion of anonymous French and English noblemen has almost always been rationalized, as in Q: the mute Berri and Beaumont vanish, the two-speech Bretagne of 3.5 becomes Bourbon or some other character present at Agincourt, Warwick and Westmorland fuse, one of Henry's three brothers disappears (usually Clarence, but Bedford in Q). This sensible reduction of nonentities makes it easier to keep track of the movements and reactions of a few dramatic identities. Terry Hands in 1975 tried to distinguish Henry's brothers from the other nobles by making them all, like Henry, redheaded; few but the cast seem pg 61to have noticed this. Gloucester and Clarence never achieve individuality; but Shakespeare surrounds Henry — particularly in difficult moments — with people he can quietly turn to and call 'uncle' or 'brother'. Apart from this, the general colourlessness of Henry's nobles — Exeter excepted — accurately conveys something of the feel of his reign: the solidarity of aristocratic support for Henry.1 Since the eighteenth century, productions have very effectively communicated this unity of purpose by dividing up among a number of voices the five speeches between Henry's 'May we with right and conscience make this claim?' and his 'We must not only arm t'invade the French … ' (1.2.97–135);2 unfortunately Q omits most of this passage, and so we cannot know how Shakespeare's company handled it.

This English unity, which makes it difficult to exploit individual roles like Gloucester or Warwick, throws into stronger relief the bickering and self-assertiveness of the French. The night scene at Agincourt consists largely of a display of these competing French personalities — though their variety has sometimes been smothered under a generous supply of alcohol, dice, cards, and loose women, imported to illustrate the corporate decadence of the enemy.3 The variety is (as I have argued above) even more apparent when Bourbon replaces the Dauphin. Removing the Dauphin from Agincourt also affects the interpretation of his character elsewhere, for though he still obviously underestimates Henry, he need not be so frivolous or conceited as 3.7 otherwise makes him seem. A stronger Dauphin in the earlier Acts would reinforce Shakespeare's elevation of Charles VI from the helpless, fitfully mad figurehead manipulated by competing factions which he found in Hall and Holinshed into the eloquent, initially cautious but eventually committed and impressive figure of 2.4 and 3.5. Harcourt Williams, in the Olivier film (as earlier in the 1937 Old Vic production) crossed himself as he spoke

  • And all our princes captived by the hand
  • Of that black name, Edward, Black Prince of Wales —
  • (2.4.55–6)

a memorable piece of business which arises naturally from the pg 62sustained religious imagery of the whole speech, and which need not be tied to Williams's own interpretation of the king as mad.1 In both 2.4 and 3.5 Charles begins the scene but then remains silent for some time, listening to his nobles, until himself decisively and impressively intervening: 'Think we King Harry strong' (2.4.48), 'Where is Montjoy the herald?' (3.5.36). The latter speech, the King's invocation of his army, reads lamely, but in the theatre it can be as powerful as any of Henry's great rhetorical arias.

In 1774 Francis Gentleman could say that 'If the French King and his suite are figured well, and showily habited, very slender perquisites [i.e. acting talents] are sufficient';2 this no doubt underestimates the potential of some at least of the roles, but it points rightly enough to the collective impact of costuming and physical (including vocal) impressiveness. Shakespeare does not ridicule the French for their proverbial attention to attire, but there seems no reason to doubt that the French court were — as they have been in, apparently, all productions since the eighteenth century — finely, distinctively, and impressively dressed.3 In twentieth-century productions the French have sometimes been played, collectively or in part, by native French-speaking actors and actresses;4 even without such ingenuities, they easily and unmistakably form a distinct culture within the play itself, one far more preoccupied than the English with aristocratic honour and the romanticism of war.

The theatrical possibilities in the minor serious roles have sometimes been overlooked, but the differentiation of the comic characters is as extravagant as the nose on Bardolph's face. Some, like Bardolph himself, step ready-made out of previous plays. His grotesque comic face — 'all bubuncles and whelks and knobs and flames o' fire' — is an essential feature of an actor's impersonation, as is the nasal enunciation which seems invited by Shakespeare's ceaseless fascination with the man's nose. As Dr Johnson said, 'The pg 63conception is very cold to the solitary reader, though it may be somewhat invigorated by the exhibition on the stage' — 'somewhat' being as far as Johnson will go in admitting that 'a play read' does not always affect the mind 'as a play acted'.1

Nim — who has been memorably epitomized by an actor as 'the sort of man who writes things on lavatory walls'2 — may also seem to the modern reader a rather cold conception. Nature has apparently given him a body as diminutive as his vocabulary, and perhaps a stutter as well; his sword, which should almost certainly be equally ridiculous, he has presumably supplied himself.3 Nim's affectation of the staccato-laconic has been partially obscured by the feeling that its comedy derives merely from repetition of the topical word 'humour' which has lost its meaning to modern audiences. But any meaning it had Nim labours to squeeze out of it; the meaninglessness of the repetition is its dramatic point.

I have an humour to knock you indifferently well … I would prick your guts a little, in good terms, as I may, and that's the humour of it … The King has run bad humours on the knight … he passes some humours and careers … The humour of it is too hot … These be good humours!

Nim's whole style anticipates, to a remarkable degree, the repetitiveness, understatement, incoherence, and menace now regarded as the unique preserve of the plays of Harold Pinter.

The epic measure of Nim's mind is sufficiently expressed by the object of his romantic ambitions: like the lute-case and the fire-shovel he and Bardolph will seize on as the spoils of war, the dowager of Nim's dreams hardly seems worth pursuing — and, typically, the prize (such as it is) was stolen from under his nose before he could enjoy it. Quickly, as the 1662 engraving below makes clear, fully justifies Falstaff's description of her as 'neither fish nor flesh' whom 'a man knows not where to have' (1 Henry IV, 3.3.128–9). One might add that she seems not to know where to have herself, since one of her more endearing characteristics is a genius for unintended and unperceived obscenity. This, like her other verbal trademarks — malapropism, itemizing repetition, pg 64

Theophilus Cibber as Pistol
The Hostess

2 (left). Theophilus Cibber as Pistol in 2 Henry IV (from John Laguerre's engraving, 1733). 3 (right). The Hostess, shown (next to Falstaff) in the frontispiece to Marsh's collection The Wits (1662).

reported speech, an insistence upon wholly irrelevant particulars — helps make her report of Falstaff's death perhaps the most moving and most widely acclaimed messenger speech in the canon.

This 'quondam Quickly' Pistol verbally transforms into 'the only she'. Pistol is probably less appreciated now than he has ever been: a modern theatre reviewer can remark in passing that the role 'is perhaps impossible',1 but it was prominently featured on the title pages of three Elizabethan quartos (2 Henry IV, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Henry V) and maintained its reputation into the nineteenth century. Its most famous early interpreter was Theophilus Cibber, a man born to play Pistol, being naturally endowed with all the histrionic self-importance and incompetent dishonesty the role requires; Cibber 'made more of the popgun Ancient Pistol than possibly ever will be seen again, by a laughable importance of deportment, extravagant grimaces, and speaking it in the sonorous cant of old tragedizers'.2

pg 65His hat became traditional, so that later in the century a military historian could remark that 'Ever since the days of Ancient Pistol, we find that a large and broad-rimmed hat has been peculiar to heroes'.1 Other perquisites of the role include 'a tall person, an ample stride, a thundering voice'.2 These physical attributes remain as common as they ever were, but for modern actors 'the sonorous cant of old tragedizers' has dwindled from a particular and recognizable grand style, capable of being taken seriously in the proper context, into a merely embarrassing, repetitive, generalized display of over-acting; as a consequence Pistol's marvellous tight-rope balancing of grandeur and incongruity too easily degenerates into unfunny and unbelievable shouting and posturing. The continuing fascination of Pistol's blend of stylized declamation and petty larceny has in fact been best demonstrated not in recent performances of Shakespeare but in the modern plays and productions of Steven Berkoff — particularly East, which in its mix of high language and (violent) low life provides the best available commentary on Pistol generally and 2.1 in particular.

Pistol has also suffered from having one of his great moments dismissed as a textual interpolation. At the end of 4.6, after Henry orders the killing of the prisoners, Q but not F gives him the last word, 'Coup' la gorge'. This can be not only or crudely funny, but powerful and even, in Pistol's absurd way, moving. After all, in capturing Le Fer Pistol stands on the brink of wealth: in killing him, he kills two hundred crowns, thereby at play's end returning to England more destitute than ever. This is, so to speak, Pistol's moment of choice, and his moment of greatness: first reacting to the King's command with a look of fiscal outrage, hesitating, eyeing Le Fer, pausing, and then with a shrug returning to the bravado of 'Coup' la gorge' as he cuts the man's throat. Critics remark on the genius with which great dramatists enact their images, take them literally, transpose them out of imagination into the realm of the shockingly palpable: so, after the comic and unreal hyperbole of Nim's and MacMorris's and Pistol's talk of throat-cutting, it is Pistol, the high priest of literary grand guignol, who actually and before our eyes cuts a man's throat. This could pg 66be a moment at once endearing, pathetic, and terrible, when an audience chokes on its own laughter.1

Like Pistol, the Boy — last of the Eastcheap five — suffers in modern performances from an evaporation of the reality to which he alludes. Not that the part is 'impossible'; on the contrary Peter Bourke, in the 1975 Royal Shakespeare Company production, created a marked and memorable rapport with his audience, something the text strongly encourages: the Boy has the play's first aside — 'And that's but unwholesome food, they say' (2.3.51) — and its first soliloquy (3.2.27–51). Nor does the Boy suffer so much as Nim, Quickly, and Bardolph may from a modern audience's diminished familiarity with the earlier plays in which they appear: the Boy's role here is much larger than and wholly independent of his appearance as Falstaff's page in 2 Henry IV and The Merry Wives of Windsor. But Bourke, like most modern interpreters of the role, was not a boy but an adolescent. Part of the theatrical appeal of 'the comic page', a popular Elizabethan character-type to which this boy belongs, depends upon the opportunities it offers for precocity and impertinence: precocity, because witty and deflating speeches are put into the mouth of a nine or ten-year-old; impertinence, because the page was still a real, common, and recognizable species of personal servant. Since pre-Restoration English drama depended on such boys to play female roles, there was always a reliable supply of them at hand. The social reality and theatrical practicability of the role have grievously suffered from the decline of child labour.

Though these five characters all begin life in other plays,2 Henry V identifies and discriminates them well enough for a spectator or reader so unfortunate as to be ignorant of their earlier dramatic biographies to have little difficulty in appreciating their Dickensian variety and life. Their structural significance is much more likely to elude him; for that depends in part upon their relation to Falstaff, who does not appear in the play at all. For the original audiences the sudden appearance of Nim and Bardolph, talking about Quickly and Pistol, could hardly have seemed the non sequitur it does today; that Falstaff and his adopted family would accompany Henry to France must have been merely assumed, and pg 67had in fact been promised in the Epilogue to 2 Henry IV. But Falstaff's absence from the play would have seemed more unexpected and bewildering than his presence off stage does to many today. That absence — Falstaff's death — the play unequivocally blames on Henry himself, while assuming that the affection for Falstaff which binds these five people will be shared by the audience, and that the audience will also share an almost equal affection (built up in preceding plays) for Bardolph, Nim, Pistol, Quickly, and the Boy. Without this, the characters become (as in many modern productions) merely 'grimy and generally repellent'.1 Postwar directors, intent on the serious political meaning of the history plays, seem sometimes to have deliberately squeezed all pleasure and spontaneity out of the comic scenes.2 But this degradation of his former Eastcheap cronies not only reduces our sense of what Henry has lost; it deprives the play of its first demonstrations of the farce, gaiety, and fellow-feeling which will dominate the final scenes.

Shakespeare does not produce a new set of comic characters, unique to this play, until the middle of the siege of Harfleur, and of the four characters introduced there (3.3) two appear nowhere else. No actor has been able to make much of Captain Jamy, whose individuality consists solely of a Scots accent (itself not so well conveyed as by earlier, lesser dramatists); but MacMorris has sometimes made a vivid if rather crude impression — partly because the problems of the British in Ireland have continued to lend his part the thrill of topical interest.3 Gower, who has a much larger and more important part than either of these, usually creates no impression at all.4 Recent productions have tried making him slightly pompous, or lumbering him with a peculiar moustache;5 pg 68this could in fact probably be taken a little further than it has been. The tendency to play him straight creates the impression that Shakespeare sends up the Scots, Irish, and Welsh, while the sensible Englishman stands by benignly amused. Gower has been described as phlegmatic; it might be more accurate to call him slow. He bears at least a family resemblance to the 'beef-witted' Ajax of Troilus and Cressida, who realizes ('O, meaning you!') only after Achilles has left the stage what the latter meant by 'He knew his man' (2.1.125–6). Having said nothing for almost fifty lines, Gower at last intervenes, after MacMorris threatens to cut off Fluellen's head, to announce 'Gentlemen both, you will mistake each other'; in 3.6, after again standing silent for forty lines which degenerate into exchanges of abuse, he stirs from his torpor with the recognition, 'Why, is this the ensign you told me of?'; in 4.1 he enters calling loudly for Fluellen, and after being berated for ten lines can only answer 'Why, the enemy is loud'. Sustaining such an interpretation of the character throughout the play would require strategic pauses in the actor's delivery and care for blocking (Gower standing between Fluellen and MacMorris, or Fluellen and Pistol, his head turning from one to the other); it would depend upon the emphasis and deliberation with which he announces the obvious. But it seems the best explanation for the peculiarities of the role, and would provide the best possible contrast to the intemperate, hasty, explosive Fluellen.

Armed with his pocket Tacitus or his folio Plutarch, Fluellen 'has been esteem'd (next to that of Sir John Falstaff) the best and most humorous [character], that Shakespeare ever wrote'; so at least we are told by the preface to C. P. Molloy's The Half-Pay Officers (1719), a farce concocted from wholesale theft of the characters of Fluellen and MacMorris. The deservedly popular encounter between Fluellen, Pistol, and the leek was imitated not only by Molloy, but as early as 1599, in The Life of Sir John Oldcastle; and the Welsh Captain Jenkins in Dekker and Webster's 1605 Northward Ho seems clearly derived from Shakespeare's original.1 Hazlitt called Fluellen the play's most entertaining character, and a century earlier Charles Gildon praised the part as 'extremely comical, and pg 69yet so happily touch'd that at the same time when he makes us laugh he makes us value his character'.1

But though we undoubtedly value Fluellen, we value him to a different degree and for different reasons than we value, for instance, Williams: Fluellen inspires amused affection, Williams demands respect. We can accept Henry's trick with the gloves because the joke turns on Fluellen, not Williams. Williams, given the unusual distinction of an individual entry separate from the rest of the army, answers Henry forthrightly, keeps his word when he sees the glove in Fluellen's cap, flatly denies being a traitor, and finally stands up to the King himself — with, one feels, absolute justice. We laugh, throughout the sequence, at Fluellen: insisting with exaggerated emphasis that the man must keep his word; wildly delighted at the 'favour' Henry does him; blind to the suspicious similarity between Williams's story and Henry's; uncomprehending at Williams's first question about the glove; almost certainly bested by the bigger man, Williams, when they come to blows; insisting (with his predictable and wholly inappropriate passion for 'disciplines') that Williams's 'neck answer for' keeping the vow Fluellen himself had earlier insisted that he must keep; and all the while speaking that idiolect which renders his various enthusiasms infectiously ridiculous.

Fluellen serves the priceless structural function of allowing Henry to resolve the dispute with Williams amicably, without in the process poking fun at the man who had stood up to him. The audience gets its joke, a joke promised from the moment Henry put on Erpingham's cloak, but unexpectedly deferred; and yet the joke does not cheat of his dignity the common soldier we by now respect and demand to see respected. Williams in fact justifies and increases that respect by proving his willingness to stand up to the King when he knows it is the King he is standing up to. All this the play owes to Fluellen; to Fluellen also it owes the decisive but enjoyable dismissal of Pistol. Falstaff, Bardolph, Nim, and the Boy die, and die directly or indirectly at Henry's hands; Pistol instead is dismissed with no more than a comic come-uppance, richly deserved and farcically satisfying, but administered by one comic character to another, and in no way casting aspersions on Henry. This too is a joke we have long been expecting: Pistol's whole style pg 70holds out the promise of a crushing deflation, and from the beginning of Act Three — when Fluellen first enters, appropriately enough, to drive the Eastcheap characters off — Fluellen and Pistol have been in conflict, or juxtaposed in contrast to one another. When Fluellen and Williams clash, only Fluellen makes us laugh; when Fluellen and Pistol clash, both do; in both cases, as in his earlier comparison of Henry and Alexander, Fluellen in the aftermath of Agincourt provides the stimulus for gaiety and intellectual relief.1

Fluellen and Princess Catherine between them bear the main structural burden of turning the play towards comedy and celebration after Agincourt. Catherine's first scene, her language lesson (3.4), not only provides the greatest possible contrast to the strained brutality of Henry's threats to Harfleur (3.3); it also, like the episode of the glove, makes a promise to the audience: a promise, not paid until the play's final scene, of the return of this character and this kind of comedy. To eighteenth-century critics that final scene itself seemed an indecorous irrelevance, partly because the language lesson was omitted in performance and even, in some editions of Shakespeare, debased to the bottom of the page, as an unworthy interpolation for which Shakespeare could not have been responsible;2 George Calvert's 1872 Manchester production restored it (with the final obscenities discreetly removed), but by placing it immediately before the wooing scene turned the entire last act into a structural non sequitur. Aaron Hill, on the other hand, in his (unsuccessful) 1723 adaptation, went to the opposite extreme: the romance of Shakespeare's final scene became the major interest of the play, Catherine having to compete with 'Harriet', Scrape's niece, whom Henry had earlier seduced but abandoned. The disadvantages of such omissions or rearrangements demonstrate once again Shakespeare's tact, the cunning pg 71with which he deploys comedy and romance in the service of a larger structure.

As both of Catherine's scenes have proved irresistible in the theatre, critical objections to them seem something of an impertinence. Dr Johnson's often-quoted feigned bewilderment — that he could not understand why Henry here reverted to such a character as he had earlier ridiculed in Hotspur1 — almost certainly owes less to the scene Shakespeare wrote than to the biography of the most popular Henry of the mid-eighteenth century, William ('Gentleman') Smith. Smith was chiefly famous for two roles: Henry V and Hotspur.2 What pretends to be a criticism of Shakespeare's play, sub specie aeternitatis, in fact only reflects the limitations of a particular actor. Likewise, one need not make such heavy weather as some recent critics have done of the fact that the marriage of Henry and Catherine is a mere political arrangement, devoid of sincerity or genuine feeling. Arranged marriages were not restricted to conquering monarchs; they were simply a fact of life in sixteenth-century England, and long after.3 Henry and Catherine try, as many others must have done, to create a personal relationship within the confines of a social institution — an attempt which deserves, and in the generosity of the theatre duly receives, sympathy and approval rather than moral reprobation.

In concert these individuals all contribute to our sense that what critics sometimes describe as 'Henry' war' is instead a conflict of two peoples, two nations, each containing within itself variety and division. Out of diversity the play aspires to unity, the unity of a band of brothers, of Henry and Catherine, of England and France, of politics and joy. It advances dialectically: no sooner is a unity established than we are made aware of what that unity excludes, until that too can be contained. After the divisions of the first two scenes, Henry and his court are by the end of Act One united in their common purpose — and immediately we are shown Eastcheap brawling. After Southampton, Henry can leave behind an undivided England — and we are reminded, through Falstaff and those who have loved him, of an entire world Henry has excluded. So the process continues until, after the achievement of Agincourt, in the pg 72consummation of the dialectic, Burgundy insists that the harmony must include France as well as England.

Will and Achievement

There remains, finally, one other sense in which Henry V deserves to be called, can hardly avoid being called, 'epic'; it is a study of human greatness. Greatness need not be, indeed almost never is, morally perfect: Achilles may be great but he is not in any conventional sense 'good'. Nor is greatness often rewarded with longevity: as Chapman would have told Shakespeare (if he needed telling), the price of Achilles' fame is that he will not live long. Those who gloat over Henry's moral and personal weaknesses, or over the Epilogue's lament that after Henry's death all he had gained was lost, have simply failed to understand that these things in no way undermine Henry's claim to greatness; if anything they confirm it.

Some critics have claimed that Shakespeare found greatness uninteresting, and that proof of this can be found in the poetry of the play, which they describe as 'mechanical', 'lethargic', or 'unengaged'.1 To answer accusations so nebulous is like trying to wound the air with a penknife. Insofar as the play's language can be defended at all, it can be defended only by thorough line-by-line explication and commentary. The beginnings of such a commentary I have tried to provide; for I think it must be said that previous editors have, in this one respect at least, not served the play so well as might be expected in a work written in his maturity by a man universally regarded as the greatest dramatist and poet in the language. Being a dramatist, moreover, makes him a particular kind of poet, a poet in the oral tradition: like the poetry of Homer, the poetry of Henry V was designed to be spoken and heard, not read. In certain plays of Shakespeare this fact appears to be of relatively little importance; but the poetry of Henry V, like that of the Iliad and Odyssey, has often been faulted for its virtues — faulted, that is, by readers for the very qualities that make it brilliantly succeed for speakers and listeners. Why this should be particularly true of Henry V, and generally more true of some plays than others, is a largely-disregarded question I cannot attempt to answer here; pg 73suffice it to say that, for this play if no other, a reader would be well advised to creep into a corner (or better, on to an empty stage) where he can, without embarrassment, read the text out loud.

But why should Shakespeare have found greatness uninteresting? W. B. Yeats, in an undeservedly influential essay (partly cribbed from Walter Pater), asserted in his usual masterful way that Shakespeare must have been more interested by and engaged in the 'vessel of porcelain' Richard II than in the prosaic, public, efficient, successful 'vessel of clay' Henry V.1 But this was the Pre-Raphaelite Yeats speaking, not the public and political Yeats of 'Easter 1916' and after; we today admire Yeats as a poet precisely to the extent that he gradually abandoned his allegiance to the self-indulgence of Richard II. I myself find it difficult to believe that William Shakespeare, in 1599, was unaware of his own success, his greatness, his achievement and potential as an artist; nor could he have been ignorant of the challenge to his powers offered by this subject, 'whence new immortal Iliads might proceed'. Shakespeare was also, in April 1599, the same age as Henry at the time of his death. Of course, here we begin to venture into biographical fantasy; but the Shakespeare of Yeats and Granville-Barker2 has been used to cudgel Henry V. and denigrators of the play should not be given a critical monopoly on speculation about the playwright. The realism of his tavern scenes suggests that, like many other writers — and like Prince Hal — Shakespeare must have immersed himself in the low life of his time, partly out of natural affinity, but partly too as an observer, listening, watching, learning, conscious of what in this milieu could be used for other purposes; like Hal and Henry, Shakespeare has been imagined by some modern interpreters (Edward Bond, most powerfully) as essentially cold and selfish; certainly he was, like Henry, a man in an intensely public profession who nevertheless remains deeply private.

This is why I said that the play is, in part, about the nature of Will. As Henry learns and the play demonstrates, Shakespeare as an artist must have known that (as Yeats also said) 'rhetoric is the will trying to do the work of the imagination'; that certain kinds of achievement cannot be forced, but must simply happen, and pg 74only can happen in an atmosphere of spontaneity and trust — including a trust in others, in the 'band of brothers' who must help you to perform the great act of your ambition. And Shakespeare, being a great man, must have known too that greatness has little to do with personal perfection, and that in fact achievement of the highest scale sometimes requires a cold-blooded brutality: Henry may have banished Falstaff, but Shakespeare in the play killed him, and it seems to me no accident — or at least a most revealing one — that the playwright reminds us of his own rejection of Falstaff immediately after Henry orders the execution of the French prisoners.

As Margaret Cavendish said in 1664, commenting on Shakespeare's gift for dramatic ventriloquism: 'and would you not think he had been Henry the Fifth?'1


1 As Norman Rabkin argues in Shakespeare and the Problem of Meaning (Chicago, 1981), 33–62.

1 It hardly seems coincidental that the first essay to argue that 'The play is ironic' was written in 1919 (Gerald Gould, 'A new reading of Henry V', English Review; reprinted in Shakespeare: Henry V, ed. Michael Quinn, Casebook series (1969), 81–94).

1 Pierce Penniless, in Works, i. 213. For full references for works cited repeatedly in the Commentary and Introduction, see pp. 81–6.

2 Henslowe's Diary, ed. R. A. Foakes and R. T. Rickert (Cambridge, 1961), 33, 34, 36, 37, 47, 48, 319, 323. The interpretation of Henslowe's common 'ne' as 'new' is debatable in a number of instances (xxx–xxxi).

1 A. R. Humphreys argues persuasively that Oldcastle (= Falstaff) must have been familiar to audiences before Shakespeare wrote 1 Henry IV; this familiarity must have come from something other than the text of Famous Victories as we have it. See Humphreys's new Arden 1 Henry IV (1960), xxxiv.

2 The relevant anecdote from Tarlton's Jests (entered in Stationers' Register 1609; first surviving edition 1638) is reprinted in Bullough, iv. 289–90.

3 The 1598 text of Famous Victories appears to be a memorially reconstructed text (like the 1600 Quarto of Henry V; see below, pp. 20–3); this led Dover Wilson to conjecture that it represents a highly abridged and much debased version of two original Queen's men plays, written in the 1580s ('The Origins and Development of Shakespeare's Henry IV', The Library, IV, 26 (1945), 2–16). This reduces the three Henry V plays to two; Humphreys further reduces them to one, by suggesting that Henslowe's harey the v is a 'redone' version of the second of these two 1580s plays (1 Henry IV, xxxvi). But this is all speculation. Since any play on Henry's reign must have been based on the chronicles, considerable overlapping was inevitable; in such circumstances any new play might be described as an adaptation of an old one.

1 See The Letters of John Chamberlain, ed. N. E. McClure (Philadelphia, 1939), i. 50–73; these were first cited as evidence for a potentially earlier date of composition by G. P. jones, 'Henry V: The Chorus and the Audience', Shakespeare Survey 31 (1978), 93–104. Stow's Annals confirms the extensive preparation for this expedition (see next note).

2 The Annals or General Chronicles of England, begun first by Master John Stow, and after him continued and augmenteduntil the end of this present year 1614, by Edmund Howes (1615), 787–8.

3 A performance of Julius Caesar was witnessed by a German traveller, Thomas Platter, on 21 September 1599; this may not have been the first performance, of course. Since at least two or three weeks must have intervened between a play's completion and its first performance, completion of Henry V in May would have left only three months for the composition of Caesar.

4 Meres does not mention The Taming of the Shrew or 1–3 Henry VI, both certainly earlier than his list; his failure to mention Henry V is thus only suggestive, not conclusive, evidence of its date.

5 A. R. Humphreys is exceptional in arguing for completion of Part Two early in 1597; see his new Arden edition (1966), xiv–xvii. G. B. Evans, more recently, upholds the traditional later date (Riverside, p. 52).

1 See Appendix E.

2 This entry and that of 14 August are reproduced photographically in S. Schoenbaum's William Shakespeare: Records and Images (1981), 212–13.

3 The most recent discussions of the entry are in Richard Knowles's New Variorum As You Like It (New York, 1977), 353–64, and in Thomas L. Berger's 'The Printing of Henry V, Q1', The Library, VI, 1 (1979), 114–25.

1 This reservation is especially important because Shakespeare has sometimes been considered an admirer of Essex, with Henry V modelled upon him. Recognition of the play's political context does not entail adherence to these biographical fantasies.

1 For popular enthusiasm — particularly among theatre audiences — for Essex and the aggressive militarism he advocated, see David Bevington's Tudor Drama and Politics (Cambridge, Mass., 1968), 289–96.

2 Lily B. Campbell, Shakespeare's 'Histories': Mirrors of Elizabethan Policy (1947), 280.

1 The interrelationship of imperialism and the drama in this period is finely illuminated in Philip Edwards's Threshold of a Nation (Cambridge, 1979), 66–109.

2 Ralph Berry, Changing Styles in Shakespeare (1981), 68.

3 Walter, xii; Wilson, xlvi.

1 The second reprint, dated 1608, was actually printed in 1619 as part of the Pavier collection: see W. W. Greg, 'On Certain False Dates in Shakespearian Quartos', The Library, II, 9 (1908), 113–31, 381–409. Inclusion of Henry V in a collection tells nothing about its own popularity, of course.

2 Richard III, The Taming of the Shrew, Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale, Othello, Hamlet. Julius Caesar (twice), The Merry Wives of Windsor, and possibly 1 Henry V ('ould Castel'), all between 1633 and 1639 (E. K. Chambers, William Shakespeare (Oxford, 1930), ii. 352–3).

3 For pre-Restoration allusions to Henry V, see Appendix E; figures for other plays are based upon Bentley.

1 There is no satisfactory history of Henry V in the theatre. Dates and venues of major revivals can be found in Charles Beecher Hogan, Shakespeare in the Theatre: A Record of Performances in London, 1701–1800, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1952–7); George C. D. Odell, Shakespeare from Betterton to Irving, 2 vols. (1920); J. C. Trewin, Shakespeare on the English Stage, 1900–1964 (1964). After its first revival, Henry V was Shakespeare's second most popular history play in the eighteenth century, after Richard III (in Colley Cibber's adaptation); it was staged by every major nineteenth-century producer, often with notable success; Trewin includes it among plays most popular with early-twentieth-century audiences (39).

2 Harry M. Geduld, Filmguide to 'Henry V' (Bloomington, Indiana, 1973), 48. The script has been published in Film Scripts One, ed. George P. Garrett, O. B. Hardison, Jr., and Jane R. Gelfman (New York, 1971).

3 A. C. Sprague, Shakespeare's Histories: Plays for the Stage (1964), 94, note 3. This figure is based on the published acting text (1875); Sprague suggests that 'Promptbooks … might show that in actual performance many more went by the board'.

4 John Philip Kemble Promptbooks, ed. Charles H. Shattuck, Folger Facsimiles (Charlottesville, 1974), vol. iii.

1 W. W. Greg, The Shakespeare First Folio: Its Bibliographical and Textual History (Oxford, 1955), 285–7. I have added somewhat to Greg's account of these features.

1 Greg, First Folio, 112, 195, 266–7, 278, 287, 401. Editors usually disguise Beaumont under a call for 'others', not present in the Folio direction or required by the scene: so one ghost breeds ghostly company.

1 Since the Chorus speeches divide the play into five natural Acts, it is possible to say with almost complete confidence that the Folio act-divisions are wrong: Act Two is not marked at all, Three and Four are called Two and Three, and Act Four is made to begin at 4.7.0. The pattern of error strongly suggests that the act-divisions for the whole play were added in the printing house. Actus Quintus (correctly placed) appears on i6, the penultimate page of the quire; Actus Tertius (properly Act Four) on signature i2. Someone could therefore have noticed that quire i contains an act-break three and five, but no four. If this mistake had been discovered before printing began, it could and should have been properly corrected, by altering the erroneous Act numbers Secundus and Tertius. But if it were discovered in the midst of setting quire i, because the omitted and erroneous actbreaks for (modern) Acts Two and Three are both in quire h, which had already been printed (and the type subsequently distributed), the corrections could not be made there; but an Actus Quartus could be easily inserted, instead, somewhere in the second half of quire i, where such an insertion would only require (at most) shifting a few lines of text forward on to the next page (then shifting the same number from that page on to the next, and so forth). Since the type for page 14v — which contains Actus Quartus — was redistributed before i1, i1v, i6, and i6v were set, the error must have been discovered, and the expedient of inserting an act-break between 4.6 and 4.7 adopted, before those pages were begun; and since 4.2./4.3 and 4.3/4.4 offer rather more attractive positions for an artificial break, it may not have been discovered until the pages containing those scene-divisions (i3v. i4) had been printed and distributed. (The sequence of printing assumed here was established by Charlton Hinman in The Printing and Proof-Reading of the First Folio of Shakespeare, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1963), ii. 8–32.)

2 After Henry V, the next play to contain a character with a Scots accent was Eastward Ho (1605), which so offended James I that Jonson and Chapman, two of its authors, were imprisoned. James would certainly have taken exception to much else in the play besides the accent; but that the accent appears in a play with other anti-Scots passages in it is itself indicative. For Scots characters generally, see An Index of Characters in English Printed Drama to the Restoration, by Thomas L. Berger and William C. Bradford, Jr. (Englewood, Colorado, 1975).

1 On 15 April 1598 George Nicolson wrote to Burghley from Edinburgh. 'It is regretted that the comedians of London should scorn the king and the people of this land in their play; and it is wished that the matter should be speedily amended lest the king and the country be stirred to anger'. See E. K. Chambers, The Elizabethan Stage, i, 323, note 2.

2 On Scrope, see Three Studies, 138, note 1; for possible censorship see Appendix F, especially 1.2.145, 1.2.150–1; 3.3.10–80; 4.1.100–5.

3 Walter noted the anomaly, but did not remark on the absence of the lines from Q, and related them (unconvincingly) to his own theories about Falstaff(see below, pp. 19–20).

1 Compositor A, who set the bulk of the play, before Henry V had worked on only The Winter's Tale and Richard II, the first set from scribal and the second from printed copy. See T. H. Howard-Hill, 'The Compositors of Shakespeare's Folio Comedies', Studies in Bibliography, 26 (1973), 62–106.

2 'Appear to' must be emphasized, because misreadings which produced obvious nonsense in a transcript might then be sophisticated into a kind of sense by the compositors (thereby further reducing the number of apparent misreadings in such a text).

3 These readings are rejected by Cambridge, Wilson, Walter, Humphreys, Sisson, Riverside, Alexander, and John Russell Brown (Signet edition, 1965), as well as myself.

4 The most thorough demonstration of the scribal provenance of the manuscript from which The Winter's Tale was set is T. H. Howard-Hill's Ralph Crane and Some Shakespeare First Folio Comedies (Charlottesville, 1972); the presence of Compositors A and B was established by Hinman.

1 The best accounts of types of misreading in texts apparently set from Shakespeare's own manuscripts remain Dover Wilson's The Manuscript of Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' and the problems of its transmission, 2 vols (Cambridge, 1934), i. 106–14, and his 'Bibliographical Links between the Three Pages and the Good Quartos' in Shakespeare's Hand in the Play of Sir Thomas More, ed. A. W. Pollard (Cambridge, 1923), 113–31. Wilson's edition of Henry V singles out as characteristic the misreadings at 2.1.22 (name/mare), 2.2.136 (make/marke), 2.4.107 (priuy/pining), 3.1.32 (Straying/Strayning), 3.4.9 (soumeray/souendray), 3.7.12 (postures/ pasternes), 4.0.16 (nam'd/name), 4.2.60 (Guard: on/guidon), 4.4.60 (Saaue/ Suiue), 4.8.98 (Lestrale/Lestrake). See also notes to 2.2.101 (and/on); 2.4.57 (Mountaine/mountant); 3.4.3 (En/un), 4 (apprend/apprene), 11 (le/de), 43 (honeus/honeur), 44 (de/dy), 46 (Count/Cowne); 4.4.47 (layt a/luy ci), 5.2.184 (melieus/melieur), 245 (grandeus/grandeur), etc. Giles Dawson has argued that the 'Table/babbled' error at 2.3.16 itself demonstrates that the hand behind Folio Henry V must have been exceptionally like Hand D in Sir Thomas More (see Appendix B).

2 The most significant examples Wilson lists are in 3.3, where the compositor would have been likely to admit more idiosyncratic spellings than usual, because of uncertainty about the dialects; to Wilson's 'aunchiant' and 'theise' may be added 'Trompet', 'voutsafe' and 'breff' (all in 3.3), and elsewhere in Fluellen's speeches 'doo's' (4.7.153, etc.), 'and' (4.7.156, etc.), and 'in' (4.7.20).

3 First Folio, 286–7.

1 Andrew S. Cairncross, 'Quarto Copy for Folio Henry V', Studies in Bibliography, 8 (1956), 67–93; see Three Studies, 41–71.

2 W. D. Smith, 'The Henry V Choruses in the First Folio', Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 53 (1954), 38–57; for a reasoned rejection of Smith's argument see R. A. Law, 'The Choruses in Henry the Fifth', University of Texas Studies in English, 35 (1956), 11–21.

3 Smith doubted Shakespeare's authorship: arguments for a court performance advanced by G. P. Jones (see p. 5, note 1) are considered in Three Studies, 77, note 4.

4 For Wilson see page 4, note 3; Walter's almost contemporaneous piece, 'With Sir John in it', appeared in Modern Language Review, 41 (1946), 237–45.

1 For confusions of nomenclature (like the misidentification of Nell as Doll at 5.1.74), see Greg, First Folio, 474 etc. Walter draws attention to the irregularity of Fluellen's substitutions of p for b; but none of the dramatists who mimic Welsh accents make such substitutions consistently in every speech.

2 Walter suggests that Lord Cobham, who had succeeded in forcing the character's name to be changed from Oldcastle to Falstaff, then succeeded in having him removed entirely from Henri V. There is of course no evidence for this; and even if pressure to remove him were applied, it would surely have begun as soon as the Epilogue to 2 Henri IV announced Shakespeare's intentions; in which case Shakespeare need not even have begun Henri V before he realized that Falstaff could not appear in it.

3 Walter alleges that some parts of the play were in a fair copy, with only the rewritten portions foul; but the evidence for authorial copy described above is scattered throughout the play, except in cases (like unusual spellings) where the compositor would only preserve certain features when he was uncertain of the significance of idiosyncrasies.

1 Other Shakespeare plays which survive in two texts — Othello, Hamlet, King Lear, Richard III, Troilus and Cressida — show relatively little abridgement between foul papers and theatrical text. See also Alfred Hart, Stolne and Surreptitious Copies: A Comparative Study of Shakespeare's Bad Quartos (Melbourne, 1942), 18–20, 119– 49.

2 This commonsense conclusion is ingeniously confirmed, statistically, by Dorothy L. Sipe, Shakespeare's Metrics (New Haven, 1968).

1 This passage was first analysed by P. A. Daniel in the Introduction to King Henry V: Parallel Texts of the First Quarto (1600) and First Folio (1623) Editions, ed. B. R. Nicholson (1877), xi–xii.

2 Further evidence for Q's memorial origins was provided by Hart, and by G. I. Duthie, 'The Quarto of Shakespeare's Henry V', Papers Mainly Shakespearian, ed. Duthie (Edinburgh, 1964), 106–30.

3 The reporters were first identified by Hereward T. Price, The Text of 'Henry V' (Newcastle-under-Lyme, 1921), 19; this identification is confirmed in Three Studies, 129–42. The remainder of my discussion of the texts draws heavily upon Three Studies, which is the authority for all statements otherwise unattributed.

4 A difficulty in 2.4 seems most plausibly resolved if Bourbon, usually doubled by Nim, was there doubled by Gower (Three Studies, 105–8); but I did not see, two years ago, that this same substitution resolves the only other difficulty with the hypothesis of eleven actors, the need for Warwick/Nim to change to Bourbon in the (presumable) excursions between 4.3 and 4.5. In the demanding sequence of these two scenes, Gower is the only actor with nothing to do; in these circumstances, and having doubled Bourbon once already, it would have been extraordinary if he were not used for the same purpose again. Once a role had been split between two actors, it would be natural for them to alternate the part as the need arose elsewhere in the play. The use of the Gower actor for Bourbon in 4.5 thus (1) removes the only significant difficulty in the way of the hypothesis that Q was performed by eleven rather than twelve actors (2) makes it clear that 4.4 and 4.5 were transposed in Q for purely mechanical reasons (3) increases our confidence in Q's text of 4.5, where the substitution of Bourbon for the Dauphin most affects the text.

1 Most reliable are the speeches of the reporters themselves (Exeter, Gower, Cambridge, Bourbon in 4.5), and the scenes in which both are present (1.2, 2.2, the end of 2.4, 3.3.81–138, 3.6.90–171, 4.8); less reliable are scenes in which only one participated (2.4.1–74, 3.3.1–80, 3.6.1–89, 4.1.65–81, 4.3, 4.6, 4.7, 5.1, 5.2.1–98, 272–360). Within these categories early scenes are more reliable than late.

1 Indifferent authorial variants — fluctuations of the and a, that and which, between and betwixt, etc. — are of course indistinguishable from memorial errors, and so we have no way of recovering these from Q.

2 For cases where I have preferred Q on the assumption that F prints a misreading of the same word, see 1.2.50, 72, 163, 212, 213; 2.1.22; 2.2.35; 2.4.107; 3.4.10, 19, 45, 46; 3.6.30, 91, 113; 4.3.119; 4.5.12; 5.1.82. (In 3.4, having heard the lines gave the reporters an occasional advantage over the Folio compositor, trying to interpret a language he did not know written in a difficult hand.)

1 See E. A. J. Honigmann, The Stability of Shakespeare's Text (1965); Philip Gaskell, From Writer to Reader: Studies in editorial method (Oxford, 1978), 245–62; John Kerrigan, 'Revision, Adaptation, and the Fool in King Lear', in The Division of the Kingdoms: Shakespeare's Two Versions of 'King Lear', ed. Gary Taylor and Michael Warren (Oxford, 1983).

2 Dramatic alterations, which could have arisen during rehearsals and so need not entail a Shakespearian fair copy, include the changes discussed below (pp. 60, 65) and in the commentary at 1.2.166, 2.1.24–7, 3.2.19, and 3.6.60–4, as well as the Dauphin/Bourbon variants. Readings accepted as verbal revisions are discussed at 1.2.147, 1.2.154, 1.2.199, 1.2.208, 2.4.32, 2.4.33, and 4.6.15; many other variants, where F could be a misreading of or error for the Q word, could alternatively be authorial revisions in Q.

3 Greg, who admitted that the twin variants at 4.6.15 were hard to explain except as evidence of authorial verbal revision behind Q. nevertheless wished away 'this nightmare' because of the problems it would cause: 'endeavouring, by an almost pure process of intuition, to recover such fragments of the author's second thoughts as may lie embedded in the corruption of Q' (Principles, 174). But the determination of which parts of Q are most reliable is anything but impressionistic; the methodology and importance of casting evidence was established by Greg himself; and if one can admit verbal revision in one line of Q, to admit it in another five (in the sixth-longest text in the canon) hardly seems an extravagance.

1 The one thing we can infer about Henslowe's harey the v is that, if its Dauphin required special hose, the play ridiculed French affectations of dress. See headnote to 2.4.

1 'My lord Prince Dauphin is very pleasant with me' (Famous Victories, 846); 'We are glad the Dauphin is so pleasant with us' (Henry V, 1.2.259). For more on the influence of Famous Victories see Bullough, 348–9.

1 Shakespeare's 'gunstones' may also have been suggested by the pun on balls and stones (= 'testicles').

1 See commentary notes at 2.0.6, 3.6.139–71, and 4.0.36. Hall's description of the French plotting 'to stay the King of England at home' (xlii) seems behind 'Invites the King of England's stay at home' (5.0.37); Bullough quotes a passage verbally close to 2.4.105–9 (p. 401, note 2).

1 The founding of the two chantries is mentioned in Fabyan's Chronicle (1516); the Pope had enjoined Henry IV to atone for Richard's death 'by continual prayer and suffrages of the church'; Henry V, after 'founding of these two religious houses … ordained at Westminster to burn perpetually without extinction four tapers of wax upon the sepulchre of King Richard: and over that he ordained there, to be continued for ever, one day in the week, a solemn dirge to be sung, and upon the morrow a mass' (p. 589). This differs from Shakespeare's account in a number of respects; in addition, Fabyan specifies that the two houses were 'of monks' and 'of close nuns', not priests.

2 See notes to 1.2.57, 1.2.77, and 5.2.317.

3 Essex had been acclaimed for a similar act of clemency at Cadiz in 1596 (Campbell, Shakespeare's Histories, 287).

4 Richard Proudfoot points out that in Edward III the Somme is successfully crossed (3.3). Like several other parallels between that play and Henry V. what we make of this depends in part on whether we think Shakespeare had a hand in Edward III.

5 See 3.0.4, 3.2.43, 3.3.136, and Figure 5.

1 Bullough (p. 365) quotes R. Crompton's The Mansion of Magnanimity (1599), 92v.

2 For the infamous massacre of six hundred Spaniards, Irish, and Italians in 1580, see Edwards, Threshold of a Nation, p. 80; Edwards quotes from Spenser's defence of this action in his View of the Present State of Ireland (c.1596).

1 Walter, xvii and commentary note on 4.7.13–53.

1 Humphreys, Henry V, 26.

2 See Marie Axton, The Queen's Two Bodies: Drama and the Elizabethan Succession, Royal Historical Society (1977), 112–13.

1 These points are made by Wilson (xxiii–iv); Martin Holmes similarly argues that Elizabethans would have appreciated it as a rhetorical exercise with which they were thoroughly familiar (Shakespeare's Public: The Touchstone of his Genius (1960), 97).

2 Peter Saccio, Shakespeare's English Kings: History, Chronicle, and Drama (Oxford, 1977). 78.

1 Sir John Harington's Orlando Furioso has 'Charlemagne' at 1.1.8 (rhyming with slain) and 38.80.1 (rhyming with ordain); at 1.7.7, 8.18.5, 30.89.8, and in the Argument to Book I he uses 'Charles the Great'. In Middleton and Rowley's The World Tossed at Tennis (1620) Charlemagne is called 'Great Charles of France' (l. 293). Shakespeare, who uses 'Charles the Great' here, has 'great Charlemagne' in All's Well that Ends Well. 2.1.77.

2 The Massacre at Paris and Doctor Faustus (Marlowe), Edward III (Shakespeare?), Alphonsus of Germany (Peele?).

3 Richard David, Shakespeare in the Theatre (Cambridge, 1978), 194.

1 See for instance James Agate's praise of Ralph Richardson's 'most moving' performance of this speech, in the 1931 Old Vic production (Brief Chronicles: A Study of the Plays of Shakespeare and the Elizabethans in Actual Performance (1943), 113).

1 For a cogent statement of this view see, among many others. Andrew Gurr, 'Henry V and the Bees' Commonwealth', Shakespeare Survey 30 (1977), 61–72.

2 Moody E. Prior, The Drama of Power: Studies in Shakespeare's History Plays (Evanston, Illinois, 1973), 282.

1 Book II, chapter 3: reprinted in Bullough, 410.

2 'The King Disguised: Shakespeare's Henry V and the Comical History', The Triple Bond: Plays, Mainly Shakespearean, in Performance, ed. Joseph G. Price (1975), 92–117.

1 Mary Renault, Times Literary Supplement, 12 July 1974.

2 William Shakspere's 'Small Latine & Lesse Greeke', 2 vols. (Urbana, Illinois, 1944).

1 This passage is also discussed in Three Studies, 87–91.

2 Hall is talking about the second embassy (referred to in 3.0), but Shakespeare has in any case conflated and rearranged the diplomatic messages: see note at

3 The two 'Eastcheap' scenes (2.1, 2.3) have in fact often been combined in performance.

1 Of course it is equally possible that, Shakespeare having later decided to omit Falstaff, the Epilogue's 'die of a sweat' suggested a subterfuge by which he could fulfil the letter if not the spirit of his promise.

2 Cuts made in the performance of this and other speeches can be conveniently consulted in William P. Halstead's Shakespeare as Spoken: A Collation of 5000 Acting Editions and Promptbooks of Shakespeare, 12 vols. (Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1977–80), vi.

3 See commentary note at and Three Studies, 159–60.

1 G. Wilson Knight, The Sovereign Flower (1958), 163, 167.

2 E. M. W. Tillyard, Shakespeare's History Plays (1944), 311; Tillyard continues 'when they issue from a worthy context. Occurring as they do here in a play constructed without intensity, they can only depress'.

3 The Times, 29 March 1859.

1 Around Theatres (1953), 62–3.

1 W. Macqueen-Pope, Ghosts and Greasepaint (1951), 102.

2 Sprague, Shakespeare's Histories, 94.

3 The promptbook of this production is in the Shakespeare Centre Library, Stratford-upon-Avon.

1 For Burton see Sprague, Shakespeare's Histories, 103; for Howard, Sally Beauman's The Royal Shakespeare Company's Production of 'Henry V' for the Centenary Season … (Oxford, 1976).

2 'Shakespeare, the Twentieth Century, and "Behaviourism"', Shakespeare Survey 20 (1967), 139.

1 Bullough, vi. 87–9.

2 See, besides 2.0.28, the commentary notes to 2.4.100. 3.3.95, 4.2.43, 4.3.14, 4.3.83, and 4.8.103.

3 References are to Chapman's Homer, ed. Allardyce Nicoll, 2 vols. (1957), i. Nicoll prints the 1598 text of Books 1–2. which were very heavily revised in subsequent editions, separately; for the other books he prints the revised text but collates variants in 1598. The Seven Books of 1598 are not 1–7. but 1, 2, 7–11.

1 'Their camp is almost mixed with ours' (10.87), 'small space 'twixt foes and foes' (10.143), 8.486–95, etc.

1 Nestor 'quickly started from his bed when to his watchful ears | Untimely feet told some approach: he took his lance in hand | And spake to him, "Ho, what art thou that walk'st at midnight? Stand."'

2 It may also be relevant that half of Book 10 is devoted to two spying expeditions, one by the Trojans to the Greek camp, another by the Greeks to the Trojans: compare the French messenger's account of Lord Grandpré, who 'measured the ground' between the two French and English camps (3.7.122–3). This has no equivalent in the chronicles.

1 Chapman had already made a reputation as a dramatist with The Blind Beggar of Alexandria and An Humourous Day's Mirth, and as a poet with The Shadow of the Night, Ovid's Banquet of Sense, and his completion of Marlowe's Hero and Leander.

2 Shakespeare (1939), 179.

3 Wilson understands 'bending author' as a reference to the actor himself, bowing as he speaks (xiii); this is, to say the least, strained.

1 The only two roles we can attribute to Shakespeare with any confidence (and even then on the basis of later reports) are Hamlet's ghost and Adam in As You Like It. both within a year or so of Henry V; both are elderly men, the one notable for a winning loyalty, the other for majesty of declamation. The two roles in Henry V which best fit these talents are Erpingham and the French King (which could easily be doubled).

2 This tradition of playing Chorus as a woman was initiated by Mrs Kean, in the 1859 Charles Kean production: it seems to have ended with Casson's 1938 production.

3 The Energies of Drama (Princeton, 1972), 58–61.

1 For Thorndike see Sprague, Shakespeare's Histories, 105; for Livesey, Redgrave, and James, see David, Shakespeare in the Theatre, 213–14. Eric Porter or Ian Richardson playing Shakespeare, in the twentieth century, is of course quite different from Shakespeare playing Shakespeare in 1599.

2 Johnson on Shakespeare, viii. 527.

3 'In the person of Mrs. Kean [the Chorus] forms the presiding charm, the keynote … of the entire play' (John Cole, The Life and Theatrical Times of Charles Kean, F.S.A., 2 vols. (1859), ii. 343).

1 Dutton Cook, Nights at the Play, 2 vols. (1882), ii. 230.

2 Trewin, Shakespeare on the English Stage, 1900–1964, 177.

1 Charing Cross Magazine, October 1876; John Coleman, Memoirs of Samuel Phelps (1886), 174.

2 Shakespearean Playgoing, 1890–1952 (1953), 158.

3 For Essex in the 1760s, see Francis Gentleman, The Dramatic Censor, 2 vols. (1770), ii. 364; for the 1789 Kemble production, James Boaden's Memoirs of the life of John Philip Kemble, Esq., 2 vols (1825), ii. 8; for Macready, The Theatrical Inquisitor, October 1819, p. 226, and The Times, 5 October 1819, p. 2; for Kean's production, Daily Telegraph, 29 March 1859. J. C. Trewin mentions among the 'small things' which moved him in the 1951 Stratford production 'the deep voice of Peter Williams's Exeter' (quoted in Shakespeare's Histories at Stratford 1951, J. Dover Wilson and T. C. Worsley (1952), 84).

4 The Times, 2 October 1789; 1 December 1931; 13 February 1957.

1 Berry, Changing Styles in Shakespeare, of Ralph Truman in the Olivier film (69).

2 David, Shakespeare in the Theatre, 213.

3 Jorgensen, Shakespeare's Military World, 162.

1 Saccio, Shakespeare's English Kings, 70.

2 This goes back at least as far as Kemble.

3 Sprague, Shakespeare's Histories, 109.

1 This business seems to have originated in Williams's performance of the same role in the 1937 Old Vic production (Trewin, Shakespeare on the English Stage, 1900–1964, 164).

2 Bell's Acting Edition, iv. 232.

3 The ambiguity of our reactions to fine dress is neatly illustrated by Henslowe's reference to the 'velvet gowne' for harey the v: this could be for the French (complementing the Dauphin's hose), or for Henry.

4 Michael Langham's 1956 production at Stratford, Ontario, cast French-Canadians in all the French parts: Catherine has more often been played by a French-speaking actress.

1 Johnson on Shakespeare, viii. 550.

2 Hermann Vezin, reported by Baliol Holloway, quoted by Sprague, Shakespeare's Histories, 108.

3 See notes at 2.1.0 and 14.

1 David, Shakespeare in the Theatre, 204. See likewise Dutton Cook's remark, a century earlier: 'Pistol, whose humours were probably of a very potent sort in past times. appear[s] now as a most obsolete and extinct creature' (Nights at the Play, ii. 230).

2 Francis Gentleman, The Dramatic Censor, ii. 364.

1 Francis Grose, Advice to the Officers of the British and Irish Armies (1789), 79. One 'A.A.'. reviewing Kemble's production, mentions Pistol's 'modern enormous parade cocked hat' (The Monthly Mirror, December 1801).

2 John Adolphus, Memoirs of John Bannister, Comedian, 2 vols. (1839), ii. 94–5.

1 See also Three Studies, 150–1.

2 I assume that The Merry Wives of Windsor antedates Henry V: see H. J. Oliver's new Arden edition (1971), xliv–lviii.

1 Elliot Norton, Record American, 8 June 1966, reviewing Michael Langham's 1966 production at Stratford, Ontario.

2 See Robert Speaight's description of Peter Hall's 1964 production of the entire Histories cycle: 'every moment of every play had been squeezed for the last ounce of meaning it contained … The pace was deliberate, and occasionally too slow … The plays had been seen as a sequence of pièces noires' (Shakespeare on the Stage: An Illustrated History of Shakespearian Performance (1973), 290).

3 Sprague mentions specifically Geoffrey Bayldon's MacMorris at Stratford in 1951 (Shakespeare's Histories, 106): Barrie Rutter's in 1975 and 1977 was equally striking, and Rutter himself well describes the uneasy thrill produced by the topicality of his speeches (Beauman, The Royal Shakespeare Company Production, 84).

4 'Something had gone very wrong when the most interesting officer in his ragbag of an army was … Captain Gower' (Speaight, Shakespeare on the Stage, 289, of the Peter Hall production).

5 Sprague, Shakespeare's Histories, 106.

1 Some of the plethora of comic business 5.1 has inspired is described in Arthur Colby Sprague's Shakespeare and the Actors: The Stage Business in His Plays (1660– 1905) (New York, 1944), 120–1. For the seventeenth-century reputation of the scene see Appendix E.

1 Remarks on the Plays of Shakespeare, in The Works of Mr. William Shakespeare, Volume the Seventh (1710), 350.

1 Fluellen's structural importance has been generally ignored, partly because of the recent controversy over whether he was based on an Elizabethan Welshman, and if so which. For an extended discussion of this uninteresting and unanswerable question, see Bullough, 371–5; Bullough however ignores the objection raised by Campbell (Shakespeare's Histories, 302) and the alternative candidate proposed by Leslie Hotson (I, William Shakespeare (New York, 1938), 118–22).

2 Alice is not mentioned in any seventeenth-century cast lists (Hogan, Shakespeare in the Theatre … 1701–1800), which suggests that 3.4 was not played. Gildon (Remarks, 350) dismissed it as absurd; Pope was 'sorry to have no colour left, from any of the editions, to imagine it interpolated'; Hanmer relegated it to the bottom of the page.

1 Johnson on Shakespeare, viii. 565.

2 Odell, Shakespeare from Betterton to Irving, i. 371. Smith played Henry from 1755 to 1769 (except for a brief interval in 1758). The relation between Johnson's comment and Smith's career seems not to have been noticed.

3 Stone, The Family, Sex and Marriage, 180–92.

1 The measure of Tillyard's temperamental distaste for the play can be gauged by his comparison of the poetry in 2.4 to 'the more primitive parts of 1 Henry VI' (Shakespeare's History Plays, 312).

1 'At Stratford-upon-Avon' (May 1901). in Essays and Introductions (1961), 108.

2 'From Henry V to Hamlet' (1925), reprinted in a revised form in Studies in Shakespeare: British Academy Lectures, ed. Peter Alexander (Oxford, 1964), 71–102.

1 CCXI Sociable Letters, written by the Thrice Noble, Illustrious, and Excellent Princess, the Lady Marchioness of Newcastle (1664), Letter 113; my italics.

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