The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 22.0285  Thursday, 27 October 2011

From:         Abigail Quart <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         October 8, 2011 2:49:04 AM EDT

Subject:      H5


I was taught, at Queens College, CUNY, that Henry V is extremely anti-war.  Open it anywhere and it will bite your face:


Henry V. How yet resolves the governor of the town? 

This is the latest parle we will admit; 

Therefore to our best mercy give yourselves; 

Or like to men proud of destruction 

Defy us to our worst: for, as I am a soldier, 

A name that in my thoughts becomes me best, 

If I begin the battery once again, 

I will not leave the half-achieved Harfleur 

Till in her ashes she lie buried. 

The gates of mercy shall be all shut up, 

And the flesh'd soldier, rough and hard of heart, 

In liberty of bloody hand shall range 

With conscience wide as hell, mowing like grass 

Your fresh-fair virgins and your flowering infants. 

What is it then to me, if impious war, 

Array'd in flames like to the prince of fiends, 

Do, with his smirch'd complexion, all fell feats 

Enlink'd to waste and desolation? 

What is't to me, when you yourselves are cause, 

If your pure maidens fall into the hand 

Of hot and forcing violation? 

What rein can hold licentious wickedness 

When down the hill he holds his fierce career? 

We may as bootless spend our vain command 

Upon the enraged soldiers in their spoil 

As send precepts to the leviathan 

To come ashore. Therefore, you men of Harfleur, 

Take pity of your town and of your people, 

Whiles yet my soldiers are in my command; 

Whiles yet the cool and temperate wind of grace 

O'erblows the filthy and contagious clouds 

Of heady murder, spoil and villany. 

If not, why, in a moment look to see 

The blind and bloody soldier with foul hand 

Defile the locks of your shrill-shrieking daughters; 

Your fathers taken by the silver beards, 

And their most reverend heads dash'd to the walls, 

Your naked infants spitted upon pikes, 

Whiles the mad mothers with their howls confused 

Do break the clouds, as did the wives of Jewry 

At Herod's bloody-hunting slaughtermen. 

What say you? will you yield, and this avoid, 

Or, guilty in defence, be thus destroy'd?




Chorus. Now entertain conjecture of a time

When creeping murmur and the poring dark

Fills the wide vessel of the universe. 

From camp to camp through the foul womb of night

The hum of either army stilly sounds,

That the fixed sentinels almost receive

The secret whispers of each other's watch:

Fire answers fire, and through their paly flames 

Each battle sees the other's umber'd face;

Steed threatens steed, in high and boastful neighs

Piercing the night's dull ear, and from the tents

The armourers, accomplishing the knights,

With busy hammers closing rivets up, 

Give dreadful note of preparation:

The country cocks do crow, the clocks do toll,

And the third hour of drowsy morning name. 

Proud of their numbers and secure in soul,

The confident and over-lusty French 

Do the low-rated English play at dice;

And chide the cripple tardy-gaited night 

Who, like a foul and ugly witch, doth limp

So tediously away. The poor condemned English, 

Like sacrifices, by their watchful fires 

Sit patiently and inly ruminate

The morning's danger, and their gesture sad 

Investing lank-lean; cheeks and war-worn coats

Presenteth them unto the gazing moon

So many horrid ghosts. O now, who will behold 

The royal captain of this ruin'd band 

Walking from watch to watch, from tent to tent,

Let him cry 'Praise and glory on his head!'

For forth he goes and visits all his host.

Bids them good morrow with a modest smile 

And calls them brothers, friends and countrymen.

Upon his royal face there is no note 

How dread an army hath enrounded him;

Nor doth he dedicate one jot of colour

Unto the weary and all-watched night, 

But freshly looks and over-bears attaint 

With cheerful semblance and sweet majesty;

That every wretch, pining and pale before,

Beholding him, plucks comfort from his looks: 

A largess universal like the sun 

His liberal eye doth give to every one,

Thawing cold fear, that mean and gentle all, 

Behold, as may unworthiness define,

A little touch of Harry in the night.

And so our scene must to the battle fly; 

Where—O for pity!—we shall much disgrace

With four or five most vile and ragged foils,

Right ill-disposed in brawl ridiculous,

The name of Agincourt. Yet sit and see, 

Minding true things by what their mockeries be. 




Or this...again, randomly opening the script, it falls on the speech that says it was all for nothing:



[Enter Chorus]

Chorus. Thus far, with rough and all-unable pen, 

Our bending author hath pursued the story,

In little room confining mighty men,

Mangling by starts the full course of their glory.

Small time, but in that small most greatly lived

This star of England: Fortune made his sword; 

By which the world's best garden be achieved,

And of it left his son imperial lord.

Henry the Sixth, in infant bands crown'd King

Of France and England, did this king succeed; 

Whose state so many had the managing, 

That they lost France and made his England bleed:

Which oft our stage hath shown; and, for their sake,

In your fair minds let this acceptance take.


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