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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: February ::
Harry, Hal, Henry
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0089  Monday, 11 February 2008

From:		Harry Berger Jr <
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Date:		Sunday, 10 Feb 2008 14:36:43 -0800
Subject:	Re: Harry, Hal, Henry

Owing to some purely irrational prejudice, it's easier for me to 
sympathize with a Harry than with a Henry, whereas I find the heartiness 
of "Hal" generally repelling. But there are substantive reasons behind 
this preference. One is to help counteract a tendency to insist that Hal 
has been jettisoned by the beginning of Henry 5.  This accords with the 
notion that Harry's "I would have all such offenders so cut off" (his 
response to the report of Bardolph's execution) includes Hal among the 
offenders: Henry = Harry - Hal.  "Hal" signifies the figure that 
condenses within it the interaction between Harry and Falstaff while 
"Henry" signifies the antithetical figure produced by rejection of "Hal" 
and Falstaff. There's an important insight in the premise that Hal has 
been "jettisoned" but it's distorted by attributing it solely to 
Shakespeare. Why bypass Harry? Why not credit him with the discontinuity 
produced by his reformation? Whatever the reason, I suspect that the 
strong tonal contrast between the two names, "Hal" and "Henry," makes it 
easier to view their bearers as two different characters and the plays 
in which they appear as discontinuous. Continuity may be encouraged by 
insisting that it is Harry who plans to appear before the world as Hal 
first and Henry after, and who, although he jettisons Hal, continues to 
enjoy the relatively informal appellative style of "Harry"-of the Harry 
who values his flexibility, his ability to move upward or  downward on 
the scale of social being, to play the Prince of Wales or conqueror of 
France with as much elan as he plays the Corinthian prince of good 
fellows. From the time he is first mentioned in Richard 2 everyone calls 
Harry Harry (or Hal, or the Prince) and no one calls him Henry until the 
final scene of Henry 5, where he's responsible for the two exceptions in 
the tetralogy:

(1) While wooing Katherine he offers her-in exchange for the voluntary 
self-submission that will mitigate what is otherwise one article in  the 
conqueror's schedule of demands-not only England, Ireland, and  France, 
but also "Henry Plantagenet" (5.2.249-53). Plantagenet is the family 
name of the line of English kings descended from Geoffrey of Anjou. Here 
it connotes the French origin of the dynasty embodied in the fifth 
Henry, who is now taking steps to perpetuate it.

(2) A little later (357-60) Exeter cites the article in which Harry 
demands to be addressed in official documents as "filz Henry, Roy 
d'Angleterre, Heritier de France" (repeated in Latin). Both the dynastic 
name and the formal title are functions in the game of genealogical 
politics. Harry reserves the formality and severity of "Henry" for such 
ritual instruments of conquest as the promissory foreplay of courtship 
and the ceremonial rubric by which, refathering himself, he not only 
legitimizes his claim to French lands and displaces the Dauphin but also 
negotiates his liberation from his first father's tainted inheritance: 
"No king of England, if not king of France" (2.2.193); "Now beshrew my 
father's ambition! he was  thinking of civil wars when he got me" 
(5.2.236-37).

It's shortly after the latter statement that he names himself not Harry 
but Henry, and not Monmouth nor Lancaster nor even England but 
Plantagenet, distancing this self-representation from recent fissures 
and inserting it in the more venerable, more  inclusive, House of the 
Anglo-Gallic Angevins. Even as he aspires to be the formidable Henry of 
chronicle fame, he resists the loss and incorporation of Harry into that 
figure. Political legitimacy is not quite enough. That the courtship is 
gratuitous from the standpoint of  alliance and that it evokes comedic 
conventions of fulfilled desire and mutual consent indicate a need on 
Harry's part not so much for approval or acceptance as for Katherine's 
voluntary assent to his  persuasion. This will make her a partner, give 
her a share in the responsibility for her own conquest and thus limit 
his ethical liability. Although he dramatizes his advantage in the 
courtship scene, as when, knowing French, he insists that she speak in 
broken English, he seeks moral and personal legitimacy by making her a 
coequal accomplice in what would otherwise be a kind of rape.

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