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Medley History: The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth to Henry V

Clare, Janet


Janet Clare


Peter Holland


More than any other playwright of the period, Shakespeare dramatized English history and in so doing experimented with different ways of representing the past. Within as well as between the tetralogies of pre-Tudor history, spanning at least a decade of composition, there are quite evident differences in style and form. The Henry VI plays, largely dependent on the chronicle of Hall and those compiled by Holinshed, have been appositely labelled ‘heroical histories’: an epithet which is equally applicable to the Agincourt scenes of Henry V and the ‘patriotic triumphalism’ of the play's Chorus. Richard II, with its Marlovian tragic influence, and specifically that of Edward II, is written almost entirely in verse, and the only popular voices in the play are the royal gardeners, who comment on, but do not influence, the action of the play. In contrast, 1 and 2 Henry IV mark a radical departure in the composition of the history play. The advertisements on the title-pages of the quartos remind readers of what they would have seen on the stage, namely the dramatic interplay of the heroic, the dynastic and the comic encapsulated in allusions to the Battle of Shrewsbury, the coronation of Henry V and the ‘humorous conceits’ or ‘humours’ of Falstaff. Similarly, the title-page of the 1600 quarto of Henry V advertises the Battle of Agincourt and the conceits of Ancient Pistol. In the co-existence of the comic and the serious there is a recuperation of pre-Marlovian drama or that of Marlowe himself before the publisher Richard Jones had expunged the indecorous comedy which he had deemed unfit for the weighty tragedy of the two parts of Tamburlaine.


Clare, J. (2010). Medley History: The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth to Henry V. In P. Holland (Ed.), Shakespeare Survey 63 (102-113). The University of Hull.

Acceptance Date Jan 1, 2010
Online Publication Date Nov 1, 2010
Publication Date 2010
Deposit Date Dec 19, 2014
Journal Shakespeare survey: Shakespeare's English histories and their afterlives
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 63
Pages 102-113
Series Title Shakespeare Survey
Book Title Shakespeare Survey 63
ISBN 9780511780004
Keywords REF 2014 submission
Public URL
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