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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: October ::
The Archbishop Wasn't There? So Forth.
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0937  Monday, 23 October 2006

[1] 	From: 	Larry Weiss <
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 	Date: 	Thursday, 19 Oct 2006 13:35:00 -0400
 	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0923 The Archbishop Wasn't There? So Forth.

[2] 	From: 	Edmund Taft <
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 	Date: 	Thursday, 19 Oct 2006 13:41:38 -0400
 	Subj: 	The Archbishop, etc.

[3] 	From: 	Ros King <
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 	Date: 	Thursday, 19 Oct 2006 18:47:57 +0100
 	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0923 The Archbishop Wasn't There? So Forth.


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Larry Weiss <
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Date: 		Thursday, 19 Oct 2006 13:35:00 -0400
Subject: 17.0923 The Archbishop Wasn't There? So Forth.
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0923 The Archbishop Wasn't There? So Forth.

Shakespeare's Archbishop shares Dr. Greenberg's skepticism about 
Pharamond:  He says that Pharamond is "Idly suppos'd the founder of this 
law."

In any case, I don't think the Archbishop's speech is intended to be taken 
as history -- perhaps we are supposed to understand that it generally 
follows the encouragement Henry was given, according to Holinshed, but I 
doubt we are supposed to understand that the Archbishop has accurately 
described French history (although a good deal of it is accurate).

As I have said before, this speech is a superb example of quality legal 
advocacy, questions of accuracy aside.  I commend its study to anyone who 
aspires to be (or to understand the techniques of) a successful litigator. 
As farcical as it is usually presented on stage, it embodies a number of 
sound rhetorical techniques that are regular parts of a lawyer's arsenal 
today.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Edmund Taft <
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Date: 		Thursday, 19 Oct 2006 13:41:38 -0400
Subject: 	The Archbishop, etc.

Harvey Roy Greenberg concludes that "[t]he overall and most important 
point, as far as I can see, is that Henry V and Charles VI according to 
the prelate BOTH derive their line through the feminine, only Henry's is 
pure, unsullied, so forth, while Charles VI lineage is tainted by sundry 
abdications, assassinations, plots, conspiracies, so forth."

True. And Harold Goddard observed that the Archbishop's argument, if true, 
invalidates Henry's claim to the English throne. It seems to me that the 
Archbishop's long speech on the Salic Law serves two functions:

    1. It illustrates "the dark backward and abysm" of history. We get lost 
in it no matter how hard we try not to. In the second tetralogy, history 
is a commodity to be used to get what you want. Just interpret it your 
way, and then use it as a justification for whatever end is desired.

    2. It serves to build up the frustrations of the council members, all 
of whom are impatient for the banner of war to be unfurled.  In this 
sense, Henry is most "artful" in allowing the archbishop to go on and on 
until the desire for war overtakes just about everyone.

Ed Taft

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Ros King <
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Date: 		Thursday, 19 Oct 2006 18:47:57 +0100
Subject: 17.0923 The Archbishop Wasn't There? So Forth.
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0923 The Archbishop Wasn't There? So Forth.

What Harvey's trying to do strikes me as history rather than dramaturgy. I 
would have thought that the important thing as far as the play (and any 
modern production of it) is concerned, is what the question of succession 
meant in the sixteenth century (and therefore how it might be translated 
into a modern idiom for a modern audience).

The validity of succession through the female line was of paramount 
importance to Elizabethans contemplating the succession of James VI of 
Scotland.  With the murder of the childless Henri III, it also constituted 
a contemporary crisis in France. In both cases, questions of both religion 
and expediency lurk beneath the veneer of legality and 'right', which is 
what makes it such marvelous material for a play. Salic Law or its 
equivalent has been used, abused, dropped and reasserted repeatedly 
(including England) depending on the politic demands of the moment and can 
therefore only be understood in precise historical contexts. As far as 
Elizabethan drama is concerned, the issue isn't what the Goths thought 
they were up to, but what the ordinary run of Elizabethans and their 
French contemporaries understood by it on their own terms. Establishing 
the veracity of Pharamond may be interesting for its own sake but I don't 
see it helping our understanding of sixteenth century drama

Best wishes,
Ros

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