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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: November ::
Re: Henry V's Answer to Williams
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1156  Tuesday, 17 November 1998.

[1]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Monday, 16 Nov 1998 10:13:48 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1147  Re: Henry V's Answer to Williams

[2]     From:   Christine Mack Gordon <
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        Date:   Monday, 16 Nov 1998 12:20:01 CST6CDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1147  Re: Henry V's Answer to Williams


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Monday, 16 Nov 1998 10:13:48 -0800
Subject: 9.1147  Re: Henry V's Answer to Williams
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1147  Re: Henry V's Answer to Williams

Larry Weiss notes that:

     ... in the context of the Christian belief in effectiveness
     of penitence to salvation, these poor souls have no chance.
That      all men are sinners is assumed by Williams; his point is that
the       one last chance of salvation by death-bed repentance that
most         Christians have is denied those killed in battle.  Henry's
lengthy      argument that the king is not guilty of his soldiers' sins
is true,     but irrelevant.

I find this point very interesting.  Henry's inability to respond might
be tied with his near-despair at the end of his prayer before battle:
"...all that I can do is nothing worth / Since that my penitence comes
after ill, / Imploring pardon" (4.2.291-293)  Gary Taylor, in an
appendix to the latest Oxford, claims that "the explanation Shakespeare
and Henry offer is perfectly orthodox:  all penitence is inadequate
because all penitence comes after sin, and cannot undo that sin" (300).

If we take the outcome of the battle as a blessing, however, as Henry
does, then the possibility of undeserved grace is restored, or rather
raised for the first time.  Perhaps this connects, obscurely, to the
singing of Te Deum, a thanksgiving for delivery from idolatry, and to
the dismissal of "idol ceremony."

Cheers,
Sean.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Christine Mack Gordon <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 16 Nov 1998 12:20:01 CST6CDT
Subject: 9.1147  Re: Henry V's Answer to Williams
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1147  Re: Henry V's Answer to Williams

Larry Weiss said:

>In other words, in the context of the Christian belief in effectiveness
>of penitence to salvation, these poor souls have no chance.  That all
>men are sinners is assumed by Williams; his point is that the one last
>chance of salvation by death-bed repentance that most Christians have is
>denied those killed in battle.  Henry's lengthy argument that the king
>is not guilty of his soldiers' sins is true, but irrelevant.

I don't know the historical facts about Henry's campaign, but surely
most such expeditions included members of the clergy, and most of the
soldiers took the opportunity on the night before the battle to make a
final confession. This would have been the equivalent of the death-bed
repentance available to others. In Catholic tradition, a sincere act of
contrition, even without a priest's absolution, is sufficient to "clear
the record" before death.

Chris Gordon
 

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