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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: May ::
Re: let slip the dogs of war
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0922  Tuesday, 13 May 2003

From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Monday, 12 May 2003 16:33:11 -0300
Subject: 14.0906 Re: let slip the dogs of war
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0906 Re: let slip the dogs of war

Brian Willis writes,

>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.

I don't get it.  Surely these are the sorts of bumps one actually does
find in propaganda pieces, with a standard speech about how war is hell,
a leader who finds his strength part way through, a war-crime committed
by the enemy (just in case we don't know what side we're on), a few
references to historical figures to remind us that all of this heroism
really happened, and a series of heroic, yet touching, deaths.

In the mini-series "Glory", for instance, about the first black American
army regiment, almost the whole unit is wiped out in the final scenes,
the colonel has to establish his leadership and has his own doubts,
racism is shown to be rampant throughout the Union ranks, a war crime is
alluded to and three characters go down in hails of bullets, redeeming
their previous failings by carrying the stars and stripes up the
ramparts of a Confederate fort.  Clearly the mini-series wasn't
straight-forward propaganda, but I don't think it was designed as a
whole to make us question the rightness of the northern cause or of an
integrated armed forces.  That's not to say, of course, that if some
racist cinema critic were to put his hands to writing an ideological
critique, he wouldn't be able to find ironies, just as a pacifist critic
can find ironies in Henry V.

Cheers,
Sean.

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