The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 22.0342 Tuesday, 13 December 2011
Date: December 11, 2011 8:43:19 PM EST
Subject: Once More . . . Ironic Henry V
Earlier I asked if anyone knew of any references to the ‘male masturbatory’ language underneath and throughout the Henry V ‘Once more unto the breach’ speech. There weren’t any responses and I honestly hadn’t expected any because I believed myself to have done sufficient due diligence in my research of the Henry V commentary, while allowing as should be evident to all of us, no one can possibly read and digest it all. But more importantly, I believed if it had been spotted earlier, scholarship would have latched onto the significance of it. On my website, I term the speech ‘The Smoking Gun’ because not only has the King been caught red-handed, but because I suggest it should remove any doubt about whether Shakespeare is being ironic in Henry V; I believe with this revelation Humpty Dumpty has had a great fall. And as my thesis shows, the speech sets the tone and tenor for READING the entire play, where the ‘poetics’ underneath is unconscious to an ephemeral viewing audience - which is exactly both Shakespeare’s intent and point: ‘Stage’ (appearance) is one thing, (his judgment of) reality another. Few commentators would suggest Shakespeare ‘liked’ war, and most would agree he disliked it, but in Henry V we may experience he has quite intentionally become didactic in holding the mirror up to man's 'To Be-ing' nature latched to celebrating patriotic war (heightened patriotic and godly rhetoric), while he is being quite stunningly and profoundly ironic underneath with his oblique poetic comments. The very Genius of the Breach Speech becomes near-imponderable: the King is compelling his men to jump into this blood-spilling breach while Shakespeare has him simultaneously (covertly) spilling his own seed; not the sort of image we put on ‘Support Our Troops’ posters and bumper stickers. For those who haven’t checked on the validity of my observation on the Breach Speech, I have prepared a simple teaching aid, (attached). Simply print, fold at the line, and consider the rest of the explicit description and poetic imagery throughout the remainder of the speech. Much less to do with the eye of the tiger than the self-loving Act spelled out. And then Read him, again and again: And monarchs to BEHOLD the SWELLING SCENE ...
And regardless of people’s opinion of Shakespeare’s opinion of war, I also believe the Speech should take the appreciation of ‘Shakespeare’s words’ to a challenging new height. He has gone incredibly bawdy (filthy), without the usual sexual euphemisms, but simply (covertly) describes the act poetically; very much akin to Sylvia Platt’s ‘Metaphors’, but much, much more undeniably explicit. Additionally, you really have to give him the nod in how seamlessly he has intentionally misled his auditors, drawn the audience off his scent with the red herring ‘imitate the action of the Tyger:’ In this speech, he has clearly furrowed new ground with his poetic powers.
For those wanting to muse a bit more about the ramifications of such an interesting discovery in Henry V, I would like to pose a speculation. I have much more evidence in support of this hypothesis, but I believe this speech, and the play in general, are considerably beyond Censorable Material in Shakespeare’s time - to suggest a monarch's personal involvement in the battle is 'mirrorly' for such graphic self-gratification would have been entirely unthinkable, in the heads will roll sort of way. I am convinced this play was intentionally ‘hid away’ in the First Folio with the belief it would be uncovered at some later date - (unfortunately) a sort of hoax, regardless that all of us have heard enough about that aspect of the Mysterious William Shakespeare . . .
King. Once more vnto the Breach,
Deare friends, once more;
Or close the Wall vp with our English dead:
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
In Peace, there's nothing so becomes a man,
As modest stillnesse, and humilitie:
But when the blast of Warre blowes in our eares,
Then imitate the action of the Tyger:
Stiffen the sinewes, commune vp the blood,
Disguise faire Nature with hard-fauour'd Rage:
Then lend the Eye a terrible aspect:
Let it pry through the portage of the Head,
Like the Brasse Cannon: let the Brow o'rewhelme it,
As fearefully, as doth a galled Rocke
O're-hang and iutty his confounded Base,
Swill'd with the wild and wastfull Ocean.
Now set the Teeth, and stretch the Nosthrill wide,
Hold hard the Breath, and bend vp euery Spirit
To his full height. On, on, you Noblish English …
Whose blood is fet from Fathers of Warre-proofe:
Fathers, that like so many Alexanders,
Haue in these parts from Morne till Euen fought,
And sheath'd their Swords, for lack of argument.
Dishonour not your Mothers: now attest,
That those whom you call'd Fathers, did beget you.
Be Coppy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to Warre. And you good Yeomen,
Whose Lyms were made in England; shew vs here
The mettell of your Pasture: let vs sweare,
That you are worth your breeding: which I doubt not:
For there is none of you so meane and base,
That hath not Noble luster in your eyes.
I see you stand like Grey-hounds in the slips,
Straying vpon the Start. The Game's afoot:
Follow your Spirit; and vpon this Charge,
Cry, God for Harry, England, and S[aint]. George.
[ Alarum, and Chambers goe off.]