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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: December ::
Re: Map of Henry V's Campaign
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.2144  Monday, 6 December 1999.

[1]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Friday, 03 Dec 1999 14:27:15 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.2129 Re: Map of Henry V's Campaign

[2]     From:   Graham Bradshaw <
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        Date:   Saturday, 04 Dec 1999 16:21:44 +0900
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.2129 Re: Map of Henry V's Campaign


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Friday, 03 Dec 1999 14:27:15 -0500
Subject: 10.2129 ESHK 10.2129 Re: Map of Henry V's Campaign
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.2129 ESHK 10.2129 Re: Map of Henry V's Campaign

I recently came across a beautifully bound 14 volume set of the Works,
printed on superb velum with color and B&W prints, published in London
in 1907.  The principal editors were said to be Henry Irving and Frank
Marshall, although I think Irving pretty much admitted that he was just
lending his name to the venture.

Each of the plays is preceded by a fairly scholarly introduction and
followed by impressive text notes.  The text notes to most of the plays
are headed by maps of the action.  The few I looked at seemed to be more
detailed (although smaller) than Asimov's maps.

Unfortunately, one of the volumes was missing and two had been
thoroughly destroyed by larvae, who were e'en at it.  Otherwise, I would
have made an offer.  Does anyone know anything about this edition?

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Graham Bradshaw <
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Date:           Saturday, 04 Dec 1999 16:21:44 +0900
Subject: 10.2129 ESHK 10.2129 Re: Map of Henry V's Campaign
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.2129 ESHK 10.2129 Re: Map of Henry V's Campaign

The historical issue of maps is obviously being dealt with. But, so far
as Shakespeare's Henry V is concerned, there is another, closely related
but largely undiscussed issue. I tried to make sense of it in my book
"Misrepresentations", but others may have done better, before or since.

The "issue" is this. The Chorus in "Henry V" studiously corrects the
play's own representation of "history", by reminding the audience that
after the famous victory at Agincourt, Henry returned to England, time
passed, etc. etc. And of course the Chorus never so much as acknowledges
the existence of the play's low-life characters, like Pistol, or even
that other (medieval, rather than Elizabethan) amateur historian,
Fluellen.

But of course in Act 5 the play, which in every earlier act has defied
the Chorus, jauntily proceeds in a quite different (much more Brechtian)
direction after the Agincourt victory. Although the Chorus insists on
historical truth, as filtered through his own "take-me-to-your leader"
version of what history is (and isn't), Shakespeare's fifth act begins
in a gloriously defiant or insouciant fashion-by returning us to France,
and the dispute between Pistol and Fluellen (another
take-me-to-your-leader amateur historian), as though no time had passed,
and as though the victorious English somehow went on  directly from
Agincourt to confront the French king. This provocation is quite
extraordinary, isn't it?

The fifth act then consists of two scenes, or stage a kind of dramatic
diptych.

First, we see Fluellen, the "English" Welshman (where are you,
Terence?), beating up Pistol. Alas, the sentimental puerilities of
Olivier's and Branagh's battle scenes distort and obscure and pervert
(money, money, money) what is so remarkable in SHakespeare's play: there
aren't any battle scenes. The only scenes in which blood is shed onstage
are (i) the scene where Henry gives the order to cut the throats of
defenceless French prisoners, and (ii) the scene where Fluellen cracks
Pistol's skull with an "English" cudgel. Neither scene is heroic. Modern
productions either (i) soften the Fluellen/Pistol scene by making the
beating far less severe than the text shows it to be, or (ii) cut it
altogether-like Branagh, the most puerile and unreflective of all
revered Shakespeare film directors. Cutting the scene of course
eliminates the challenge of the Shakespearean diptych, which next shows
another Welsh-born "English" lout beating up the King of France, not by
cracking his skull, but by raping his country and daughter.

Modern ways of staging, or NOT staging, the final scene of this
play-while interpolating silly/sentimental battle scenes, which
Shakespeare could write and sometimes, but not in this crucial
instance-seem to me to epitomise the modern refusal to engage with
Shakespeare's play and its historiographical challenge. Requesting the
"maps" may well be, although I don't want to prejudge, another part of
that impoverishing enterpise. I hope it isn't.

Cheers,
Graham Bradshaw
 

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