The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0661 Tuesday, 18 November 2008
From: Harvey Roy Greenberg <
Date: Thursday, 20 Nov 2008 16:08:30 EST
Subject: Canterbury Oration REDUX REDUX REDUX
I haven't written in these pages for awhile.
I am a psychoanalyst/journalist/film.media.popular culture scholar, with
occasional -- very occasional ventures into Shakespeare (Review of the last
filmed MERCHANT OF VENICE; first part of an essay on Hamlet's pirates).
For several years, I have been working on several versions of a restaging of the
long and prolix oration by the Archbishop of Canterbury in Henry V, Sc. 2.
(often much aided by several posts from this group)
Piece rejected by several Shakespearean scholarly journals to date, and I am
reworking yet again. I believe journal readers were correct in recommending that
the piece should be sent to a journal of dramatury/performance. Many
corrections were very well-taken. However, there have been there have been
several cavils with which I would cavil. In this vein, I would appreciate any
thoughts or clarification regarding the following issues.
1. In citing Canterbury's elaborate defense of Henry's lineal right to the
French throne, I refer to "the virulent dynastic conflicts which had plagued
English sovereigns over the preceding two centuries". I did not spell these out,
but am I or am I not correct that the War of the Roses stemmed from arguments
2. The oration is often given to comic effect. I object to such readings, and
postulate that Shakespeare, based on the Chronicles, believed the original
speech was performed seriously, soberly, and intended his poetic version to be
heard just so by his audience. Is the assumption reasonable, or questionable,
indeed highly questionable?
3. I theorized that audience members, while not greatly pleasured by the speech
(although I believe many were) would have their patriotism particularly roused
out in connection with the relatively recent defeat of the Babbington
conspiracy, and also by remembrance of the Spanish Armada's downfall a decade
earlier. Some readers wondered if the groundlings would much remember the Armada.
I realize the speculative nature of my surmises, and do write to be proven
'right', rather to get some sense of the scholarly thinking about these issues.
Thanks in advance,
Harvey Roy Greenberg MD
(private mailings to
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