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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: June ::
Re: Henry V's French
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0716.  Friday, 27 June 1997.

[1]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Thursday, 26 Jun 1997 08:57:51 -0700
        Subj:   RE: SHK 8.0713  Re: H5's French

[2]     From:   A.E.B. Coldiron" <
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        Date:   Thursday, 26 Jun 1997 18:53:31 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Henry V's French


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Thursday, 26 Jun 1997 08:57:51 -0700
Subject: 8.0713  Re: H5's French
Comment:        RE: SHK 8.0713  Re: H5's French

>But I did (casually) conclude that Henry V wasn't fluent in
>French, so the author of the anonymous Famous Victories
>didn't make that feature of his character up out of whole
>cloth (or he guessed right).

Maybe, but one of my middle-English profs once told us that English was
promoted for political reasons during the wars with France; hence,
almost all our Chaucer manuscripts come from the reign of Henry V, not
that of Richard II, under whom Chaucer actually lived.  Henry's
insistence on translators may have been no more than a political
gesture, rather like Jacques Chirac insisting that every
Secretary-General of the United Nations must be fluent in French,
whether it will be necessary to his job or not.

Cheers,
Sean

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           A.E.B. Coldiron" <
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Date:           Thursday, 26 Jun 1997 18:53:31 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Henry V's French

Christopher Allmand's _Henry V_ (Berkeley: U of California Press, 1992)
makes it clear that Henry was a comfortable and frequent speaker and
writer of French (see pp 420-422 especially).  He was also however an
encourager of English-it was his decree that first made English the
langiuge of official govt business, and he, like Humphrey (Duke of
GLoucester) encouraged translations into English (from Fr and Lat of
course).   See, for examples of Henry's letters in French, _Anglo Norman
letters_, ed. M.D. Legge (Oxford 1941). Derek Pearsall writes
convincingly about the relative status of the two languages; in his work
on late-medieval poets-I am not recalling this well but I think it's in
his book on Lydgate, or perhaps in an intro to a collection of early
poetry. The chroniclers are good sources for further info too-Le Fevre
de St Remy is one of my faves-well, that's enough.  Yes. Henry V knew
French.

A. E. B. Coldiron
Visiting Scholar, Johns Hopkins University
Assistant Professor, Towson University
 

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