The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 22.0238 Thursday, 22 September 2011
Date: September 20, 2011 4:09:42 PM EDT
Subject: Henry V Finding
I have been studying and researching Henry V the past couple of years and have found items and made observations which I believe both the academic and performing/interpretive arts communities may be interested in.
I am in the process of setting up a very rudimentary website for those who become interested in a further look-see in what I've done; (I expect to launch it in early November).
Obviously, I must have found things in the play to solicit my own interest that I hope others will find interesting also. And just to show I may be able to bring something to the table . . . I'd like to introduce some plausible insight about some Table Talk with long legs in the world of Shakespeare Scholarship - regarding the question of 'What is a Table of green fields?'
As most of you are familiar with, this relates Mistress Quickly’s describing Falstaff's death. It is also in reference to what many refer to as 'the most famous emendation in Shakespeare':
In Act 2, Scene 3, Mistress Quickly is speaking of Falstaff's death, (First Folio) and says,
'for his Nose was as sharpe as a Pen, and a Table of greene fields'
which doesn't seem to make sense. Thus, when Lewis Theobald (1733) edited it, he emended the First Folio to:
for his nose was as sharp as a pen, and he babbled of green fields.
(The Quarto has 'for his nose was as sharpe as a pen', but does not mention the Table.)
Since then, (unless the Editor is more religiously sticking to the First Folio), most editors have followed Theobald's lead.
. . . But the speech begins with Mistress Quickly saying,
'Nay sure, hee's not in Hell: hee's in Arthurs
Bosome, if euer man went to Arthurs Bosome:
So I researched what King Arthur's Round Table looked like. To make a long story short, there is actually a famous 'King Arthur's Table' with green fields from Shakespeare’s day - painted in the Tudor colors of white and green. It's known as the 'Winchester Round Table', and the paint scheme has been dutifully maintained since about 1516-17 :
You can actually find this picture under 'Round Table' on Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Round_Table (although that's not where I originally found it.)
Additionally, for those interested, I found one recent Scholarly article on the table:
'National Icon: The Winchester Round Table and the Revelation of Authority' by Jon Whitman, published in the journal Arthuriana, Winter 2008.
The paint scheme was done during Henry VIII reign to iconically illustrate their roots going back to King Arthur; it's very conceivable Shakespeare could have laid eyes on it when touring at Winchester with his Company.
In the context of the speech, I think the First Folio 'garbled' is now literally defensible: Given Mistress' Quickly's reference to King Arthur and with Falstaff being an English Knight, it makes sense. And with Mistress Quickly being choked up over Falstaff's death, her nonsensical and broken grammar is understandable.
As I stated, I've been steeping myself in this play and the commentary on it for the past few years and I've never seen any mention of this Table.
Typically, if someone believes the reading is defensible, it's in the sense of Table being a writing tablet, so I believe this may the first time this existing Table has been brought to the attention of the Shakespeare community. Of course, I'm happy to 'stand corrected' if it is otherwise, or listen to any comments of a 'Devil's Advocate' nature regarding this observation.
Hope some of you enjoy this sort of a Finding if it turns out to bear fruit.