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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: May ::
Re: let slip the dogs of war
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0906  Monday, 12 May 2003

From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Friday, 9 May 2003 10:55:16 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.0883 Re: let slip the dogs of war
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0883 Re: let slip the dogs of war

Although Henry V could be characterized as a shoot-em-up rollick with
moments of pathos, this effect can only be achieved by drastically
cutting Acts IV and V. What then is the intended cumulative effect of
the campfire discussion of the consequences of war and leadership into
war, the acknowledgment in "O God of battles" that he and his soldiers
indeed greatly fear dying, the description of the death of York, the
slaughter of the children and Fluellen's lamentation, the personal
listing of actual names of people killed, and just when all seems to
want to end triumphantly, the Duke of Burgandy's speech about the
devastation of war? These bumps can hardly provide a smooth quick ride
for a purely patriotic frolic. And the conclusion with the Chorus
reminding us that Henry dies and the nation goes to hell in a handbasket
surely serves two purposes: to remind us of (and perhaps advertise as
well) the Henry VI plays, but also to point out the utter futility of
all that has just gone before in the play.

I also do not believe that the current productions are going up to
celebrate our "triumph" in war.  Indeed, the production in Central Park
has the goose-bump inducing potential to remind us of all that has been
lost, being so close to Ground Zero. Has anyone seen these latest
productions, for instance the National? What have they tended to
emphasize?

Sorry about all of the political references but it is to make a
particular point about the relevance of this play to our times, or of
all times.

Brian Willis

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