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THE LIFE OF KING HENRY V
EDITIONS. The earliest edition of King Henry V. is a Quarto published in 1600, with the following title: "The Chronicle | History of Henry the fift, I 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. Millington, and Iohn Busby. And are to be | sold at his house in Carter Lane, next | the Powle head. 1600."
This Quarto was reprinted in 1602 and 1608.
In the First Folio the title of the play is The Life of Henry the Fift.1
The text of the Quarto edition differs in many important respects from that of the Folio. It omits all the prologues and the epilogue; some five hundred lines besides are in no wise represented therein; the speeches of certain characters are transferred to other characters, so that the actors are fewer; there is confusion in time indications; and, finally, corruptions, obscurities, and
Edited by W. G. Stone (New Shakspere Society, 1880).
minor discrepancies abound.1 The Quarto is obviously derived from an edition abridged for acting purposes, evidently an imperfect and unauthorised version made up from shorthand notes taken at the theatre, and afterwards amplified. The original of this abridged edition was in all probability the Folio text, more or less, as we know it. This view of the question is now generally accepted, and few scholars are inclined to maintain that "the original of the Quarto was an earlier one without choruses, and following the Chronicle historians much more closely." 2
THE DATE OF COMPOSITION. The reference to Essex in the Prologue to Act v. 30-35 (see Note) shows that Henry V. must have been acted between March 27 and September 28, 1599. The play is not mentioned by Meres in his Palladis Tamia (1598), though Henry IV. is included in his list. The Epilogue to 2 Henry
1 See Henry V., Parallel Texts, edited by Nicholson, with Introduction by P. A. Daniel (New Shakspere Society).
'See Fleay's Life and Work of Shakespeare, p. 206. Besides thus differentiating the two editions, Mr. Fleay takes the scene with the Scotch and Irish captains (iii. 2. 70 to the end of the scene) to be an insertion for the Court performance (Christmas, 1605), to please King, James, who had been annoyed that year by depreciation of the Scots on the stage.
This scene is certainly a contrast to the anti-Scottish feeling in i. 2. 136–220. The late Richard Simpson made some interesting, though doubtful, observations on the political teaching of Henry V. in a paper dealing with The Politics of Shakespeare's Historical Plays (New Shakspere Society, 1874).
It is fair to assume that the choruses were written for the first performances, though Pope, Warburton, and others held that these were inserted at a later period. They must, however, have formed an integral portion of Shakespeare's original scheme; considerations of time may have necessitated their omission in the abridged acting edition.
IV. makes promise of Henry V.; but "our humble author " has modified his original conception,1 this change of plan being intimately connected with the composition of The Merry Wives of Windsor. The play is found in the Stationers' Register under August 4, 1600 (together with As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, and Ben Jonson's Every Man in his Humour), marked "to be staied," though ten days afterward it is again entered among the copies assigned to Thomas Pavier. In the same year, also, we have the publication of the Quarto edition. Finally, the Globe Theatre, built by Burbage in 1599, is somewhat emphatically referred to in the Prologue. All these considerations seem to fix with certainty the year 1599 as the date of this play.
THE SOURCES. The main authority for the history of Henry V. was the second edition of Holinshed's Chronicles, published in 1587, though our author departs occasionally from his original for the sake of dramatic effect. For two or three minor points Shakespeare was indebted to the old play of The Famous Victories of Henrye the Fyft & [for example, the episode of Pistol and the French soldier (iv. 4. 1–64); the wooing scene (v. 2. 98–277), etc.].*
1" Our humble author will continue the story, with Sir John in it, and make you merry with fair Katharine of France; where, for anything I know, Falstaff shall die of a sweat," etc. (Epilogue to 2 Henry IV., 25-28).
2" Within this wooden O," line 13 (see Glossary).
The Famous Victories was licensed in 1594; in 1592 Nash, in Pierce Pennilesse, alludes to this or some other play on the same subject: "What a glorious thing it is to have Henry the Fifth represented on the stage, leading the French King prisoner," etc.
•See W. G. Stone's Introduction to Henry the Fifth (New Shakspere Society), — an exhaustive study of the historical aspect of the play; also, Courtenay's Historical Plays of Shakespeare; Warner's English History in Shakespeare.
DURATION OF ACTION. The time of Henry V. covers ten days, with intervals, embracing altogether a period of about six years, from the opening of the Parliament at Leicester, April 30, 1414, to Henry's betrothal to Katharine, May 20, 1420.
1st Chorus. Prologue; "sets forth the claims of the dramatist on the imagination of the audi
Day 1. Act. i. sc. 1 and 2. Ante-chamber in the King's palace; the presence-chamber.
Day 2. Day 3.
Prologue; "tells of the preparations for war; of the discovery of the plot against the King, who is set from London, and that the scene is to be transported to Southampton." Interval.
Act ii. sc. 1. London (? Eastcheap). Interval. Act. ii. sc. 2, Southampton; sc. 3, London (Falstaff is dead). Interval.
Day 4. Act. ii. sc. 4. France, the King's palace. 3d Chorus. Prologue; "tells of the King's departure from [South] Hampton; his arrival at Harfleur, and of the return of his Ambassador with proposals." Interval.
Act iii. sc. 1 to 3. Before Harfleur.
val. [Act iii. sc. 4. Interval, following
Act iii. se. 5. The French King's palace.
Day 7. Act iii. sc. 6. The English camp in Picardy. [Interval] first part of sc. 7.
Act iii. sc. 7, second part. French camp, near Agincourt.
4th Chorus. Act iv. sc. 1 to 8 (with Intervals);
English camp, near Agincourt.
5th Chorus. Prologue; "tells of Henry's journey to England, and of his reception by his people; then, with excuses for passing over time and history, brings his audience straight back again to France.' The historic period thus passed over dates from October, 1415, to Henry's betrothal to Katharine, May, 1420." Interval. [Act v. sc. 1.]
Day 9. Act v. sc. 2; perhaps, better, the last scene should reckon as the tenth day.1
6th Chorus. Epilogue.2
In no other play has Shakespeare attempted so bold an experiment in the dramatisation of war; nowhere else has he made so emphatic an apology for disregarding the unities of time and place, nor put forth so clear a vindication of the rights of the imagination in the romantic drama. He seems, indeed, to point directly to Sidney's famous comment on the scenic poverty of the stage, 8 "Two armies flye in, represented with four swords and bucklers; and then what hard heart will not receive it for a pitched field," when his Chorus makes the mock avowal,
"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."4
1 See. W. G. Stone's Introduction, p. ciii.
See P. A. Daniel's Time Analysis (Transactions of the New Shakspere Society, 1877-79, p. 297).
'See Apology for Poetry (Arber's Reprint, pp. 63, 64). Prologue, iv. 49-52.