« IndietroContinua »
THE earliest edition of Henry V. was printed in Quarto Early in 1600, with the following title :
The Cronicle | History of Henry the fift, | with his battell fought at Agin Court in France. Togither with Auntient Pistoll. As it hath bene sundry times playd by the Right Honorable the Lord Chamberlaine his seruants. | LONDON. | Printed by Thomas Creede, for Tho. Milling-ton, and John Busby. . . . 1600.'
Other editions of this Quarto (printed for Thomas Pavier instead of for Millington) appeared in 1602 and 1608.
All these texts, however, differed widely from that published by Shakespeare's executors in the Folio of 1623, and their relation to it was for long a burning question, as in the analogous cases of Romeo and Juliet, The Merry Wives, Henry VI., and Hamlet. But the problem is here a relatively simple one, and scholars are now almost unanimous in holding the Folio text to represent substantially Shakespeare's MS., and the Quarto to be a surreptitious version of the acting edition, 'hastily made up from notes taken at the theatre during the performance and subsequently patched together.' The variations in the Quarto are all, with the trifling exceptions noticed below, easily explicable from one of these two sources of corruption
(1) The five Choruses and Epilogue, with three unessential scenes (i. 1., iii. 1., iv. 2.), are omitted. This would be an obvious expedient for curtailing a lengthy play. It is certain from the allusion in Prol. v. to Essex, that these are as old as March to September 1599, the probable date of the entire play. It is pretty safe to assume then that they formed part of the original draft and were omitted in performance.
(2) Several characters are omitted, their speeches being sometimes omitted also, sometimes transferred. Thus in i. 2. Canterbury and Ely coalesce in a single 'Bishop,' though a tell-tale stage direction at the head of the scene describes the entry of 2 bishops.' Similarly in iv. 3. Westmoreland's part is made over to Warwick, while Erpingham, save for a mutilated semblance of his name in a stage direction ('Epingham') disappears altogether. These changes were an obvious stage-manager's shift to reduce the number of actors required. It is less easy to explain why in the same scene a new character, Clarence, should be introduced (for Bedford), and in iii. 7. another new one, 'Gebon,' for Ramburé, and why in the latter scene and in iv. 5. Bourbon should take the place of the Dauphin.1 These serve no obvious stage interest, nor are they the kind of changes which occur to a botching editor or a speculative printer. It is difficult to resist the inference that Shakespeare did perform some slight redistribution among these in the main faintly distinguished parts. But even this was not thorough-going,-witness the inconsistency still remaining in v. 2. 84, where the Duke of Clarence is addressed as present.
1 Besides the characters mentioned, Britany, Grandpré, Macmorris, Jamy, Messenger (ii. 4.
and iv. 2.), and the French queen have no speeches in the Qq.
(3) The whole text of the Quarto is barely half the length of the Folio;1 and its brevity is not that of a first sketch, but of imperfect note-taking. It is not an unexpanded germ, but a cento of scraps. Scarcely a single passage of more than a few lines is reported continuously; catching phrases reappear, complexities of thought or phrase vanish, fidelity for a line or two is purchased by the total loss of the following lines.
The date of Henry V. falls within narrow limits. The reference to Essex's expected return from Ireland (Prol. to Act V.) shows that it was acted, and in part at least written, between March 27, 1599, when he left London, and September 28, the date of his summary and fatal return. In the Epilogue to 2 Henry IV. Shakespeare had promised to 'continue the story, with Sir John in it, and make you merry with fair Katharine of France'; and the promise is so imperfectly kept that it is clear the entire plan of Henry V. had still to be formed when the Epilogue was written. But, as we have seen, the Second Part of Henry IV. belongs to the latter half of 1598; while this part of the Epilogue, written after the change from Oldcastle to Falstaff had been made,
may be yet later. Hence the general conclusion can scarcely be assailed, that Henry V. was written in the early part of 1599, and acted with prologues and epilogue that summer. It is probable, however, that a fragment of one of the least striking scenes in the play as we have it was added at a time when the accession of James had given an occasion for complaisance to the Scotch such as we know that Shakespeare did not always disdain to display.2 The
1 1623 lines to nearly 3479 (Daniel).
2 The conclusion is confirmed,
or not contradicted, by other
Date of Composi tion.
dialogue of the Scotch and Irish captains in iii. 2. 72 f. is not represented in Qq, and the presence of a Scottish captain in Henry's army is undoubtedly surprising after the strong anti-Scottish animus exhibited in i. 2.-an animus not entirely supported by Holinshed. Simpson saw in this colloquy of the four captains-English, Scotch, Welsh, Irish-a dramatic plea for Essex's policy of composing drastic differences, and especially of uniting Scotland with England. Mr. Fleay prefers to regard the passage as an insertion for the Court performance, Christmas 1605, 'to please King James, who had been annoyed that year by depreciation of Scots on the stage.'
In Henry V. as in Henry IV., its magnificent and long-drawn prelude, Shakespeare follows the Chronicles of Holinshed and Hall with singular fidelity, adding, as there, a few touches from The Famous Victories. The 'Harry' of the Chronicles is in substance his. Here, in a fuller sense than in any other of the Histories, Shakespeare meant to recall the actual past. It was the real Harry that he strove to paint, the real Agincourt that he bade his audience reconstruct in imagination from his 'cockpit' and 'vile and ragged foils,' 'Minding true things by what their mockeries be.' 2 But these two, the great king and the great victory, exhaust Shakespeare's interest in the reign. All personality in the play is pale beside Henry's, and all event is ancillary to the French campaign.
Even as described in Holinshed the reign was
been seen, upon the acting
(built by Burbage early in 1599);
1 See note to Meas. for Meas. i. I. 68. Life and Work of Shakespeare, p. 206.
2 Chorus to Act IV.
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
were needed, and recommended
be pleased to see