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Home :: Archive :: 2011 :: October ::
Henry V Finding

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 22.0261  Wednesday, 5 October 2011

[1] From:         John W Kennedy < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         October 4, 2011 11:13:08 PM EDT

     Subject:      Re: H5: Falstaff and the Table 

 

[2] From:         Mark Alcamo < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         October 4, 2011 9:44:27 AM EDT

     Subject:      Henry V Cut Loose ...

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

From:         John W Kennedy < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         October 4, 2011 11:13:08 PM EDT

Subject:      Re: H5: Falstaff and the Table

 

I feel constrained to point out that describing the Winchester Table as "a table of green fields", apart from being bad stagecraft in its obscurity, is stretching the EMnE word "fields" to, and likely beyond, the breaking point. The nearest sense of "field" available is the heraldic, and the OED cites it as potentially plural only once, in the anonymous 14th-century "Sir Torrent of Portyngale". And even if that be the sense in use, it would properly be a "table of green and white fields".

 

It also demands that "Arthur's bosom" be taken seriously, when it seems far more likely to be a malapropism for "Abraham's bosom".

 

Of course, I might be accused of prejudice in Theobald's favor.

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:         Mark Alcamo < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         October 4, 2011 9:44:27 AM EDT

Subject:      Henry V Cut Loose ...

 

It's clear my attempts to promote some enthusiasm for an oblique and subtle reading of Henry V hasn't solicited any significant interest thus far. That's understandable, so please allow me to table the Falstaff's death thread with Samuel Johnson's gloss,

 

Cold as any stone.  Such is the end of Falstaff.

 

And instead bring to view something more obvious and hopefully intriguing to consider.

 

As best we can tell, the Henry V Quarto was published three times, 1600, 1602, and (after Shakespeare's recorded death), in 1619.  It's about half as long as the 1623 First Folio version which all subsequent editions are based on.  The Quarto doesn’t include any of the Choruses, Scenes 1.1, 3.1, or 4.2, and many speeches are cut significantly.

 

Here is one speech from the Quarto, [Scene 12 'Touch of Harry in the night' campfire debate] :

 

2nd Soldier: I he may be, for he hath no such cause as we

 

King: Nay say not so, he is a man as we are.

The Violet smels to him as to vs:

Therefore if he see reasons, he feares as we do.

 

2nd Soldier: But the king hath a heauy reckoning to make,

If his cause be not good: [etcetera]

 

Here is the same dialogue from the First Folio [Scene 4.1] :

 

Bates: He hath not told his thought to the King? 

 

King: No: nor it is not meet he should: for though I 

speake it to you, I thinke the King is but a man, as I am: 

the Violet smells to him, as it doth to me; the Element 

shewes to him, as it doth to me; all his Sences haue but 

humane Conditions: his Ceremonies layd by, in his

Nakednesse he appeares but a man; and though his 

affections are higher mounted then ours, yet when they 

stoupe, they stoupe with the like wing: therefore, when he 

sees reason of feares, as we doe; his feares, out of doubt, be 

of the same rellish as ours are: yet in reason, no man should 

possesse him with any appearance of feare; least hee, by 

shewing it, should dishearten his Army. 

 

Bates: He may shew what outward courage he will: [etcetera]

 

Focusing on the King's Speech, everything looks copacetic.  The King is given a 'sympathetic' speech: he looks witty and sounds humble: 

 

… for though I 

speake it to you, I thinke the King is but a man ...

 

But allow me just the slightest employ of wordplay, in Bold :

 

… for though I 

speake it to you, I thinke the King is butt a man, ass I am: 

the Violent smells to him, as it doth to me; the Element 

shewes to him, as it doth to me; all his Sences haue butt 

humane Conditions: his Ceremonies layd by, in his Nakednesse

he appeares butt a man; and though his affections

are higher mounted then ours, yet when they stoupe, 

they stoupe with the like wing: therefore, when he sees 

reason of feares, as we doe; his feares, out of doubt, be of 

the same rellish as ours are:  [etcetera]  [my italics for emphasis]

 

Evidently, some cliche bodily responses to fear have stood the test of time.

(Etymological-wordplay-wise, you can't quite play stoup and poop together, but image-wise, it clearly fits.)

 

IF this were the Blazing Saddles campfire scene, it'd be in character, yet while Classic bawdy Shakespeare, it is transparently and unobtrusively tucked into the speech with just the slightest of wordplays.  And rather than show the King in a sympathetic light, the speech now begs us to feel sympathy for him, given he's clearly unconscious of the abuse he's been subjected to at the hand of his Playwright.  And once more, I honestly don't think the Elizabethan upper crust would guffaw much at this image of the highly esteemed Henry V airing his underwear for Public display.

 

... And while Samuel Johnson complained of Shakespeare’s self-indulging penchant for wordplay, I’d nominate this as an example of Shakespeare at his ‘Luminous Vapours’ Best, (possibly unpleasant as it may sometimes be to actually follow him, though).

 

IF I had tried this same wordplay on the Quarto speech, the feedback would probably (rightfully) be for me to 'grow up'.  But the lengthy coherence of the image in the Folio text, to my mind, means it had to have been an Authorial Intention.  At this point, you may just think this King's faux pas is harmless Will and without significance, or maybe it's just was a touch of sneaky sniper fire from Shakespeare without substantive damage to the play's reputation, despite the common belief the play is a panegyric pageant celebrating the King and his war.  Admittedly I've presented insufficient evidence at this juncture to reasonably jump to the conclusion that Shakespeare turns the Table on the Powers-that-Be in this play, but I hope the wheels are turning that, as I've asserted, there may be more going on in the play than is commonly appreciated.  And eventually I believe the evidence in toto will bring people back to a better appreciation of the memento mori sentiment I highlighted in my earlier post … particularly in the sense that, in the First Folio Henry V, Shakespeare undoubtedly gets the last laugh.

 

Kendall earlier responded to my post that Shakespeare's play 'fans the reputation of Henry V to a fire that far exceeds the enduring reputation of the man'.  What I'll show, however, is Shakespeare actually playing pyromaniac wit the King.  And coincidently, it’s my intent to convince readers that the Muse of Fire Shakespeare appeals to for inspiration in the opening line was actually not Mars as every editor asserts, but Hephaestus, the cuckolded husband of Venus via her love affair with Mars.  The KEY, which Shakespeare relentlessly re-minds us of, is to engage your Imaginary Forces and Think … (for tis your thoughts that now must deck our Kings …).

 

...  But now behold, 

In the quick Forge and working-house of Thought ...

 

(Minding true things, by what their Mock'ries bee.)

 

Thank you,

Mark Alcamo

 
 

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