The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0675 Sunday, 18 April 1999.
From: Brian Haylett <
Date: Friday, 16 Apr 1999 20:02:57 +0100
Subject: Re: Henry
Ed Taft says, among other things: 'If you go back to the beginning of
the play and read the council scene carefully (1.2), everybody but Henry
and one other unnamed "Lord" is full of patriotic ranting and raving.'
Who is everybody? There is the ridiculous argument from Canterbury, with
agreement from his yes-man Ely - and their cause has already been
explained as designed to take Henry's attention off the Church's money.
The rest consists of two short statements from Exeter and Westmoreland
which, far from ranting and raving, merely support Henry's own position,
as two of his yes-men. There is no pressure of importance on Henry, who
is following his father's dying advice:
'Be it thy course to busy giddy minds
With foreign quarrels; that action, hence borne out,
May waste the memory of the former days.'
You may argue about the coutiers' tone, but why does Shakespeare make
Canterbury's argument so untenable (and incomprehensible - Henry does
not follow it)? Briefly, it comes down to:
1. You have three precedents: Pepin the deposer, Capet the usurper and
Lewis his heir. (Why were they usurpers? Because the Salic Law had not
been followed in France.)
2. Those three sought to justify their usurpation and could only do it
by calling on the Salic Law. You (also son of a usurper and also unhappy
about your position) can use the same Salic Law.
3. By doing so you can 'reclaim' the throne from the present kings of
France who have 'crooked titles' because they are descendants of the
usurpers who called on the Salic Law.
There's a nice knockdown argument for you!