The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.1122. Friday, 7 November 1997.
Date: Thursday, 6 Nov 1997 15:28:44 -0500
Subject: 8.1119 Re: H5
Comment: Re: SHK 8.1119 Re: H5
Nely Keinanen asks about the cash gift given by Henry to Mountjoy in
*H5*. Mountjoy is presumably a man of some intrinsic importance (we
might judge as much from the elegance of his language), but he functions
here as a king's servant carrying messages to another king, and servants
at all levels were commonly rewarded for their work, such as carrying
messages, after the fact (such tips and bonuses were called "vails", and
it was often by saving these that servants were able to leave service,
marry, and set up for themselves), just as an earl, nominally a king's
servant, might be rewarded after the fact for service at Agincourt or
someplace like it by a gift of land. As, indeed, later in the play,
Henry rewards Williams for what is, in its awkward way, good service.
There's a nice parallel in *Ant* 2.5, where Cleopatra gives gold, her
hand to kiss, then more gold, to Antony's messenger as long as the good
news comes, but threatens to pour the molten gold down his throat if the
news is bad. He gets both rewards and curses, of course. At any rate,
Henry's gift does display his generosity-but I think early modern
spectators would not have seen it as exceptional, nor as in any way
reflecting invidiously on anybody else.