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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: November ::
Re: Henry V's Answer to Williams
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1131  Friday, 13 November 1998.

[1]     From:   M. W. McRae <
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        Date:   Thursday, 12 Nov 1998 08:13:47 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1126  Henry V's Answer to William

[2]     From:   Edna Z. Boris" <
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        Date:   Thursday, 12 Nov 1998 10:32:52 -0500
        Subj:   Henry V and Williams

[3]     From:   Richard Bovard <
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        Date:   Thursday, 12 Nov 1998 10:33:31 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1126  Henry V's Answer to William


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           M. W. McRae <
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Date:           Thursday, 12 Nov 1998 08:13:47 -0600
Subject: 9.1126  Henry V's Answer to William
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1126  Henry V's Answer to William

Henry certainly shifts the argument Williams makes about the king's
culpability if the "cause be not good."  In one sense, Henry is right
that the master is not culpable if the servant experiences misfortune,
but that is not pertinent to Williams' point.  Henry wants to assert
that duty to the king  is politically sacrosanct, but so also is every
subject bound to his own soul.  This is little more than double-talk,
however, insofar as the play at times asserts that moral duty is
equivalent to political obedience.  If to disobey the king is to imperil
one's soul, then the whole issue of the rightness or wrongness of the
king's cause becomes moot; Bates seems to enact this point by
consistently asserting his intention to serve.  Williams is another
story, of course, his anger over Henry's possible ransom an index of the
unsettled nature of the debate in the early modern period.  The
conversation also anticipates precisely the political debate that John
Rogers brilliantly explores in The Matter of Revolution, his analysis of
the correspondence between scientific and political discourse in the mid
17c.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edna Z. Boris" <
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Date:           Thursday, 12 Nov 1998 10:32:52 -0500
Subject:        Henry V and Williams

One of my classes recently spent some time examining how well Williams
defends himself in the presence of King Henry and the others ("Your
majesty came not like yourself. . . .").

The dialogue makes it clear that Williams is offended by Henry's offer
of money ("I will none of your money").  We were then struck by the fact
that the arrival of an English Herald interrupts the scene, so that the
text is entirely silent on what Williams does.

Shakespeare leaves to director and actor the decision as to what stage
business should conclude the proffering of the glove filled with
crowns.  In moving towards a "happy ending," I think that Williams would
accept the glove, finally, but would he do so reluctantly,
indifferently, or gladly?  The textual silence strikes me as brilliant
in permitting whatever response would reinforce other decisions about
this play in any individual reading or performance.

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Bovard <
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Date:           Thursday, 12 Nov 1998 10:33:31 -0600
Subject: 9.1126  Henry V's Answer to William
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1126  Henry V's Answer to William

I think that Henry's response is one of a series of long, intricate, and
confusing speeches that are made to shift responsibility to others.  I
think that Henry makes most of them.  The play introduces a Henry who
encourages a complex speech that justifies invasion, but he shifts the
blame for the French invasion to churchmen ("what your reverence shall
incite us to").  And it closes with a Henry who shifts the blame for his
supposedly poor appearance to his father ("beshrew my father's ambition!
he was thinking of civil wars when he got me")--a shift that occurs in
long speeches that could surely overwhelm and confuse a Katherine who
"cannot speak your England."

Richard Bovard
North Dakota State University
 

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