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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: April ::
Re: Henry
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0792  Friday, 30 April 1999.

[1]     From:   Brian Haylett <
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        Date:   Thursday, 29 Apr 1999 19:30:50 +0100
        Subj:   The Development of Henry

[2]     From:   Hugh Grady <
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        Date:   Friday, 30 Apr 1999 10:20:43 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0767 Re: Henry


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Haylett <
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Date:           Thursday, 29 Apr 1999 19:30:50 +0100
Subject:        The Development of Henry

The Henry Trilogy shows the development of the monarch and the
degradation of the man, partly through symbolic action. In killing
Hotspur, Hal puts down the over-impulsive, but brave, militarism in
himself. In allowing the 'resurrected' Falstaff to take the credit, he
signals his wish to have his cake and eat it: to reconcile military
glory with his experience of life-enhancing, if morally uncertain,
youth. War becomes a matter of Machiavellian deceit in Lord John of
Lancaster - it is noteworthy that Falstaff becomes callous about men's
lives at the same time. Both, I think, reflect Hal's development, and
Hal is himself busy denying Justice at the time, in the person of the
Lord Chief Justice. With Henry's commitment to the French campaign,
Falstaff symbolically dies; and Henry becomes a cold manipulator,
varying from monstrous threats (Harfleur) to rhetorical jingoism
(Agincourt). He is genuinely guilt-ridden about his title, but usually
when he calls on God, I hear (out of context, from Act V): 'Nay, it will
please Him well ... it shall please Him'. Meanwhile Shakespeare cuts the
ground from under his feet by making the French leaders so cocksure that
defeating them comes across as not so much more difficult than the
defeat of the remaining conspirators in 2Henry IV. With a final reminder
that all this counted for nothing in the way of permanent conquest,
Shakespeare completes this image of the fall of a man. Whether it is a
real picture of the historical Henry is doubtful; the artist enjoyed his
licence. It is, perhaps, a fair picture of the progress of warfare.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hugh Grady <
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Date:           Friday, 30 Apr 1999 10:20:43 -0700
Subject: 10.0767 Re: Henry
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0767 Re: Henry

1. Is "T &C" a sequel or prequel to the Henriad? 2.What to make of
Kenneth Muir's speculation that Sh. planned a series on the Trojan War?

1) I think the relation of "T & C" to the Henriad, and particularly to
H5, is most apparent in terms of changing treatments of Machiavellian
power. The Henriad is fascinated with the theatrics of power and with
the crucial role of force and violence in power struggles: Richard II is
deposed because of his ineptness in both of these areas-which, of
course, were both key themes of "The Prince." But 1 and 2 H4 display a
counter-current of uneasiness with its successful Machiavellians, who
are revealed as cold and empty vis a vis the subaltern communities of
tavern and female domesticity. When these communities are subordinated
or destroyed by the Machiavellian machinery which takes up Prince Hal
into his new role at the end of Part 2, the audience, it seems to me, is
left at one of the most emotionally disjunctive moments in all of
Shakespeare, torn between identification with Hal's Machiavellian
success and with Falstaff's symbolic downfall, emblematic of the
incorporation into power of the communities of resistance of the first
two plays.

Instead of being resolved, this tension is intensified in H5. The new
king becomes a Machiavellian hero by mastering both the appearance of
piety and legality in stirring speeches and acts which have swept away
spectators and readers for centuries, but the play carefully works in a
counter-discourse of anti-Machiavellian protest, first as the surviving
tavern denizens show us the cruel underside of glorious war, second as
Fluellen's fractured discourse on "Alexander the Pig" creates for an
attentive audience a new image of King Henry as casuist and author of
atrocities. The interaction of these discourses, the one heroicizing
Henry as Machiavellian, the other undercutting him and the Maciavellian
logic he embodies, is complex and open-ended and productive of the
muddled critical history of this play.

With T & C and Hamlet, I think, we enter a different thematic "take" on
this tension, and one that proves transitional to an outright
anti-Machievellianism in the Jacobean tragedies, notably Othello, King
Lear, and Macbeth. T & C is a long disclosure of the illusory qualities
of the two chief idealizing discourses of the Elizabethan court,
heroism-chivalry and courtly love, and it is "Machiavellian" only to the
extent that it stages a clear depiction and exposure of force, violence,
and deception as the realities behind the false appearances of chivalry
and warfare-but without the celebration of virtu and the prince as agent
of historical change and national glory of both "The Prince" and, still
visible, despite the darkening clouds, H5.

To my mind the thematic shift must be connected to the Essex events
which are so close to the dates of composition of these plays, and there
are of course tantalizing bits of evidence for such a connection-the use
of R2 by Essex to rally the troops, the allusion to Essex in H5.
Everything happens as if Essex's failure effected a shift in the
Shakespearean portrayal of Machivellianism from the often positive but
mixed, complex, and changing portrayal of the Henriad to the almost
complete negativity of T & C and Hamlet. But due to a lack of knowledge
of Shakespeare's interactions with the Essex faction, we are stuck
largely in speculation about this probable connection.

2) Speaking of speculation, I am baffled at why anyone would credit the
suggestion of a planned sequence on the Trojan Wars by Shakespeare. The
tone of T & C strikes me as that of a Gotterdammerung.
 

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