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and ligh sub the play forr
use lon; and Ani
dialogue of the Scotch and Irish captains in iii. 2.
In Henry V. as in Henry IV., its magnificent and
Even as described in Holinshed the reign was
nou Sha in a ann tim
(built by Burbage early in 1599);
upon the acting
1 See note to Meas. for Meas.
i. 1. 68. of Shakespeare's Histories; and
Life and Work of
Shakespeare, p. 206.
the Solv Cho pret
remarkably poor in opportunities for the dramatist, and it would seem that Shakespeare deliberately made light of some that he found, in order to give his heroic subject in its magnificent simplicity full way without the distractions of intrigue and counterplot. The play is strictly no drama, but an epic in dramatic form. Shakespeare seems to hint as much by the use of the Chorus, an expedient to which he no longer resorted when dealing with the vaster distances and the more colossal warfare of Julius Cæsar and Antony and Cleopatra.
Only one other drama entirely his own—The Winter's The Tale-contains a chorus; and there it serves to announce an interval of dramatic time far greater than Shakespeare has anywhere else approached. Except in a single instance (Act V.), the Chorus in Henry V. announces only trifling intervals either of space or time,-a journey from London to Southampton, from Southampton to Harfleur, and so on. But the Chorus to Act IV. has no such rôle to perform; and this Chorus, the most splendid and high-wrought of all, serves to show that Shakespeare introduced this machinery not for the sake of bridging intervals of time and space, which elsewhere his audience crossed 'on imagined wings' with the utmost unconcern, but as the most obvious means of bringing home the outward semblance of an event of absorbing interest.1 In Coriolanus, in Antony and Cleopatra, there are brief
1 It is curious that Shake- were needed, and recommended speare nowhere else betrays any his own Every Man in His irritation such as certainly Humour (written before Henry breathes in the close of Prol. iv. V.) in a prologue (1601-1616), at the imperfect resources of with a probable allusion to the Elizabethan stage. He Shakespeare's work :solved the difficulty here by the
be pleased to see Chorus; Jonson, as is well known,
One such to-day as other plays
should be, preferred to solve it by not writ
Where neither chorus wafts
o'er ing plays in which great resources the seas, etc.
bursts of battle-poetry exceeding in sublimity anything
A largess universal like the sun
A little touch of Harry in the night.
swe bric of d have ann dan selve expr epis man with the to de
1 Shakespeare's Cambridge The sooner to effect what I inhints darkly at an ulterior purpose in 11. 155-157 :
In reality, Mortimer himself apFor me, the gold of France did not
pears to have betrayed the plot seduce ;
to Henry. S. Remy's Mémoires, Although I did admit it as a motive cit. Stone's Holinshed, p. 174.
figur his li the I lated whic dashe
Nemesis which the authors of Henry VI. read in the impending ruin of the house of Lancaster; we move in a world in which tragic Nemesis has no place, and another, more Shakespearean, conception of human affairs controls the action. Henry is not irrevocably bound by the guilt of his ancestors: his sheer soundness and strength of character emancipate him at once from the inherited taint and the paralysing selfdistrust; if ruin follows in the next reign, it is not the guilt of the dead but the weakness of the living that brings it on.
All the other characters serve in their degree to set off the king's; but none are even distantly his rivals. The English commanders, the prelates, the traitor nobles, are slightly sketched, and either implicitly fall in with or but faintly disturb the onward sweep of Henry's course. The conspiracy of Cambridge and Scroop was in reality a dangerous symptom of distrust: a dramatist bent upon plot-interest would have made us tremble for the king's life. Shakespeare announces it with a quiet assurance that there is no danger, for all is known, and the conspirators themselves hasten to deprecate any further anxiety by expressing their heart-felt penitence. The whole episode serves simply to exhibit Henry's bearing as man and king,—the stern Roman fortitude humanised with Germanic pity and regret—when discharging the duty of sentencing an old comrade and friend to death.
The one formidable rival of the king is no single The French. figure, but the 'bad neighbour' at whom he dashes his little force, the assembled power of France. And the French are drawn collectively, in slightly modulated shades of the same conventional hue. The brush which had painted the rival of Henry's youth, now dashes off with far less care and delicacy the foes of
his manhood. The vapouring chivalry, the fantastic self-conceit which so fatally alloyed Hotspur's sturdy Saxon strength, reappear with more of blatant flourish in men of finer wit but weaker fibre. The Dauphin, less original than Hotspur, but without a spark of his real heroism, misconstrues Henry as completely; and Shakespeare plays with visible pleasure upon the tennis-ball motive which he found in Holinshed. He makes the English envoys to the French camp deliver a special message of scorn to the Dauphin (ii. 4. 110 f.); and the Dauphin, in spite of history and his father's orders, figures in the French camp at Agincourt. But the Dauphin is only an extreme type of the fatuous intoxication which possesses the whole host, and is chiefly responsible for its overthrow. Agincourt is the duel of Shrewsbury, writ large; with the difference that there is here no counterpart to the pathos of the mourning for Hotspur. A few wild curses and cries of rage suffice to sum up the immeasurably greater tragedy of the French rout. And in the fifth Act the French themselves seem to share in the exultation of England over their own surrender. In painting Henry's own attitude towards the enemy, however, Shakespeare's touch is not quite so firm as when he limned Prince Hal. The speeches before Harfleur to Montjoy, and after the battle, are hardly in keeping with the modesty of true valour which makes him forbid the display of his bruised helmet and bent sword in the London streets. In his actual treatment of Harfleur he shows a humanity not recorded of the historic Henry, who allowed the town to be sacked. On the other hand, his ferocious slaughter of the prisoners at Agincourt has not a whit
1 Holinshed relates that 'the prohibited by his father' (iii. Dolphin sore desired to have 552). been at the battell, but he was