The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2177 Thursday, 31 October 2002
Date: Wednesday, 30 Oct 2002 16:12:34 -0500
Subject: 13.2158 Re: St. Crispin's Day
Comment: Re: SHK 13.2158 Re: St. Crispin's Day
Steve Roth quotes Alison Anne Chapman's University of Pennsylvania
dissertation, " Reforming Time: Calendars and Almanacs in Early Modern
England on the Sts. Crispin/Crispianus issue: "Just as Henry forestalls
the traitors' challenge to his life and kingship, on the eve of battle
he preempts another threat to his sovereignty, one that is posed by
plebeian shoemakers and that challenges his control over the calendar
and the nation's memory. ...by linking St. Crispin's Day to a rhetoric
of obedience, martial solidarity, and loyalty to the king, the play
neutralizes the tendency of shoemakers to make subversive holidays that
celebrate their own material advancement."
The quotation, and the general tenor of Roth's survey, seem to put
Chapman's work in interesting contrast with David Cressy's *Bonfires and
Bells*, which Roth commends as being "largely untainted with ideological
I am especially struck, however, by her confident ascription of motive
and agency to a Henry who materializes in the play at 4 or 5 removes at
least from the actual personage: Shakespeare's representation of
Holinshed's representation of half-a-dozen written medieval sources'
representation of the battlefield/council chamber/hunting fields
memories of people who personally witnessed the young king in action.
Roth's summary and quotation may misrepresent the depth and richness of
Chapman's argument; if she can point to additional materials outside the
play that sustain her argument, I would be happy to hear of them. And
if "Henry" in the quotation is only a metonymy for something like "the
representation of Henry constructed by Shakespeare and the other
authorial agents of the play, " I think it equally plausible that
Shakespeare noticed the reference in Holinshed, and amplified it in the
play as a tacit memorial to Thomas Deloney, who had recently died (some
time shortly before April, 1600), and/or a nod to the shoemakers and
tailors in the audience--to some of whom, no doubt, the Chamberlain's
Men owed money.
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