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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: April ::
Re: Henry
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0682  Monday, 19 April 1999.

[1]     From:   Ed Taft <
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        Date:   Sunday, 18 Apr 1999 13:23:08 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Henry

[2]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Sunday, 18 Apr 1999 18:37:39 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0675 Re: Henry


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Taft <
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Date:           Sunday, 18 Apr 1999 13:23:08 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Henry

Brian Haylett's exposition of the shortcomings of the Archbishop's
argument is basically correct. In fact, every justification for war in
1.2 is similarly suspect, e.g., the Fable of the Bees, which, in
Erasmus, is used to argue that the King should stay at home and NOT go
to war (except for Holy Wars).

But these clear rationalizations are not the crucial part of the scene,
in my view, Brian. Here's the pressure that Henry is really up against:

                Look back into your mighty ancestors;
                Go, my dread lord, to your great-grandsire's tomb,
                From whence you claim; invoke his warlike spirit,
                And your great-uncle's, Edward the Black Prince. . . .
                                                (1.2.102-105)

After Canterbury plays this trump card, a cascade of voices follow:

Ely             Awake remembrance of these valiant dead.
                And with your puissant arm renew their feats.
                You are their heir, you sit on their throne;
                The blood and courage that renowned them
                Runs in your veins. . . (1.2.115-119)

Exeter          Your brother kings and monarchs of the earth
                Do all expect that you should rouse yourself
                As did the former lions of your blood.
                                        (1.2.122-124)

Then, like a syllogistic conclusion, Westmoreland reveals why a "push"
for war is on everyone's mind:

                                        Never King of England
                Had nobles richer and more loyal subjects,
                Whose hearts have left their bodies here in England
                And like pavillion'd in the fields of France.
                                        (1.1.126-128)

Here is the REAL cause of war, Brian, the reason why England will fight
France. NOT because Henry follows his father's advice, though he surely
has it in mind, and it makes him even more vulnerable to this kind of
Golden Age rhetoric, but because, for all practical purposes, the
decision to go to war has already been made by nobles and commoners
alike, as Westmoreland clearly says for all in the theatre or reading
1.2 to see. All dream of regaining the lost France and of equaling-or
surpassing-the legendary feats of the Black Prince. In short, that's how
a martial culture attempts to recover the "golden age."

All of this comes about, of course, because henry attempts to renew
England's hope in Parts 1 and 2. But to renew hope is not to be
responsible for the way in which it manifests itself in a fallen
world-and it manifests itself in the wish for war.

THAT, Brian, is not Henry's fault, and there's nothing he can do about
it but lead the English to victory, which is what he does.  In truth,
from the start of Part 2 on, Hal/Henry finds himself in one trap after
another. That's what Shakespeare thinks kingship is: essentially a trap
in which your decisions are no longer yours but dictated by the popular
will or the needs of the public.

So, I repeat what I said: Henry is not the one to blame for the war
against France. In truth, Brian, you and I are, because of our
unrealistic hopes for what the political world can accomplish, and
because our hopes lead ineluctably to war. I'll end this overlong
response (sorry, Hardy) by suggesting to Brian that there is ENORMOUS
pressure on Henry in this scene: pressure that he MUST give in to or, in
essence, be deposed. Also, I'd suggest that Brian look at the situation
of Nym in the following scene: poor Nym and Henry mirror each other:
both have been forced into war, and both more or less accept it because
"things must be as they may."

Best,
--Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Sunday, 18 Apr 1999 18:37:39 -0400
Subject: 10.0675 Re: Henry
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0675 Re: Henry

Brian Haylett argues that the Archbishop's argument is
"incomprehensible" and sets about proving his point by demonstrating
that he does not understand it.  I find the argument remarkable cogent
and, notwithstanding, lawyerly.

The Archbishop's brief is somewhat more limited than justifying Henry's
claim to the throne of France.  Henry does not ask him to validate his
superior claim to succession, which is always assumed, but only to
demonstrate why the Salic Law is not a defense to that claim:

    My learned lord, we pray you to proceed,
    And justly and religiously unfold
    Why the law Salique, that they have in France,
    Or should, or should not, bar us in our claim
            HenV,I.ii.9-12

This the Archbishop does admirably --  not by inconsistent and circular
argument, as Brian would have it-but by showing  (1) that it is
unhistorical and inaccurate to apply the Salic Law to France; (2) the
Salic Law was not in fact applied in France, and (3) the current
occupant of the French throne would himself be disqualified if the Salic
Law actually applied, and, therefore, he may be regarded as equitably
estopped from relying on it.

To be sure, we are shown in I.i that the Church has an ulterior motive
for goading the king into this foreign adventure; but that does not
detract from the cogency of the legal argument.
 

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