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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: May ::
Re: Henry and Tro.
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0801  Monday, 3 May 1999.

[1]     From:   Judith Craig <
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        Date:   Friday, 30 Apr 1999 16:42:29 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0792 Re: Henry

[2]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Sunday, 2 May 1999 13:41:04 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 10.0792 Re: Henry

[3]     From:   John Lee <
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        Date:   Saturday, 1 May 1999 11:26:40 +0100 (BST)
        Subj:   SHK 10.0792 Re: Henry

[4]     From:   Moira Russell <
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        Date:   Sunday, 02 May 1999 21:38:05 -0700
        Subj:   "Troilus & Cressida" part of cycle?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Judith Craig <
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Date:           Friday, 30 Apr 1999 16:42:29 -0500
Subject: 10.0792 Re: Henry
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0792 Re: Henry

In response to the views of Brian Haylett and Hugh Grady on the Henry
Triology and Troilus and Cressida, I would first like to ask a naive
question.  Why do we have to read Henry's actions-killing Hotspur,
denying justice in the person of Lord Chief Justice, etc,--as aspects of
his personal development?  I am having trouble with this problem myself
in my work on Cymbeline in that so many critics read Cloten as an aspect
of Posthumus and somehow we expunge hateful actions in ourselves (i.e.
the noble characters in the play) in terms of the actions of other
characters.  I assume this a psychoanalytical reading, but for the life
of me, I cannot believe it is Shakespeare's; he seems SO careful in
giving each character his own life and motivations and constructing his
plays so that repsonsibliity for one's actions accrues to himself alone.

I also have another problem with an assumption made in this post:  why
does life go out of the hero when "sublatern communities of tavern and
female domesticity" are "subordinated or destroyed by the Machiavellian
Machinery?"  This statement seems to me to run counter to the thrust of
the Henriad Trilogy-that these "subaltern communities" are not
life-giving, but disease-ridden cells of vice that should be expunged to
save the whole.  Moreover, I am not sure that Henry's young life,
although spent around taverns, was actually participatory in this
vice-ridden community. He does expel Falstaff, and why we should regard
him an a hero over Henry, I will never understand.

As regards, Troilus and Cressida, I think once again, that this play,
probably written after the Henry Trilogy, focuses not on the illusory
qualities of chivalry and courtly love, but the sickness engendered in
society when love is pandered or sold to feed a war machine.  For the
life of me, I cannot see how a poet who extolls the slogan of the
Knights of the Garter in Merry Wives , "Honi soit qui mal pense," can
hate chivalry or anyone who thinks well and suffers for it.

I realize these men are fine scholars and influential thinkers, but to
destroy idealism by substituting Machiavellian thinking for it NEVER
seems to me to work.

Best,
Judith M. Craig

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Sunday, 2 May 1999 13:41:04 -0400
Subject: Re: Henry
Comment:        SHK 10.0792 Re: Henry

Hugh Grady is right.  It is of course appropriate that the nomination of
Henry as 'Pig' comes about through a sly fracturing of the language
which the English steam-roller ruthlessly imposes on all subject
cultures.  Henry's porcine courtship of the French princess shows the
same process in action and  confirms it as a central concern of the
play.

T. Hawkes

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Lee <
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Date:           Saturday, 1 May 1999 11:26:40 +0100 (BST)
Subject: Re: Henry
Comment:        SHK 10.0792 Re: Henry

Hugh Grady suggests that Richard II is deposed because of his ineptness
in the theatrics of power and his lack of understanding of the crucial
role of force and violence. Grady's is a strong and plausible reading.
It is worth noting, however, the political brilliance of Richard's
self-theatricalization in the deposition scene - which Richard may be
seen to win, as he never reads the articles that he is brought to read.
It is also worth noting that it is exactly Richard's use of force and
violence - the suggestion that he organized the murder of members of his
own blood line to defend his hold on the throne, his exiling of
opponents, and his seizing of Gaunt's estate - that is part of his
downfall. Richard's willingness to act as he sees necessity to demand
leads to support for Bollingbroke and tradition.  Henry may later (1H4)
claim to Hal that it was Henry's proper 'acting' of the king that made
him king; but this is a self-serving simplification (which finds great
critical favour at the moment), as the 'rebels' point out - it was their
help that made Henry what he is, not his role-playing alone. If Henry is
more successfully 'Machiavellian' than Richard (I do not think the term
is particularly helpful), it is because he understands better the need
to employ traditional, commonlaw topics and discourses of rule and
nobility (power). The structure of R2, I would argue, asks us to make
this more subtle distinction, in its well-known symmetry - Bollingbroke
finishing where Richard began, sending off a deputy (Exton) to carry out
a murder, and then banishing him.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Moira Russell <
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Date:           Sunday, 02 May 1999 21:38:05 -0700
Subject:        "Troilus & Cressida" part of cycle?

I agree that "Troilus and Cressida" is something of a "Gottendammerung"
-- especially in the decimation of moral character among all until only
the bitter anti-Falstaffian Thersites remains as an example of
independence (what an example), the savage scene of Hector's slaying,
and the play's ending with the degradation of his body.  There is
nothing left to do after such events but curse. While there certainly
may have been a planned cycle of plays on the Trojan War (although I
think speculating about it is fairly fruitless), it is hard to see how
there could be a sequel to such pessimism and nihilism, or,
alternatively, how it could fit into a patterned series.  It would be
like trying to fit "King Lear" into a history of early England.

Moira Russell
Seattle, WA
 

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