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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: March ::
Re: Harfleur
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0420  Wednesday, 10 March 1999.

[1]     From:   Timothy Peterson <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 9 Mar 1999 06:59:13 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: Harfleur

[2]     From:   Heather James <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 9 Mar 1999 07:29:21 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0410 Re: Harfleur


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Timothy Peterson <
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Date:           Tuesday, 9 Mar 1999 06:59:13 -0800 (PST)
Subject:        Re: Harfleur

>Henry's speech to the citizens of Harfleur emphasizes the rape of their
>wives and daughters should the English take the town by force.
>Practically, this seems to me only a reflection of early modern (and
>contemporary) military realities:

[snip]

Although I agree that was a reality, it's important to remember that
Henry is making a legal argument here, too.  (It's important because
Henry doesn't make a move that isn't, technically, ethical.) According
to the law of arms, maintaining a defense forfeits a town's right to be
taken peacefully.  Consider it an early form of Alternative Dispute
Resolution.  There's an interesting law review article on the law of
arms in Henry 5 I can dig up if anyone is interested in the cite.  Just
e-mail me off-list.

--T.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Heather James <
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Date:           Tuesday, 9 Mar 1999 07:29:21 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 10.0410 Re: Harfleur
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0410 Re: Harfleur

>Sorry if I'm coming in on a pro vs anti Henry debate half way through,
>but I'm not sure if the fact that the Harfleur speech is 'just
>realistic' AND a standard thing to say 'since Homer' in any way detracts
>from the terrifying power and superabundant cruelty of the speech (and
>you don't say it does, it's true). As I recall, it just goes on, and on,
>and on, and I always imagine the governor being convinced pretty quickly
>that he won't try his luck against this lunatic, but Henry just ranting
>on for ages anyway. Is he enjoying it? It could be played that way,
>perhaps, if a director was 'anti-Henry'.

John McWilliams' remark reminds me of Paul Whitworth's performance at
Shakespeare Santa Cruz a number of years ago.  He played the Harfleur
speech as the play's rape scene, which is the way (I'm told) that the
entire production referred to the scene. He entered the stage alone,
wearing combat fatigues; he moved downstage and delivered the speech
directly to the audience, using a bullhorn (I think). It worked: very
understated and menacing.

Heather James
University of Southern California
 

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