Henry Vth

Portrait of Henry Vth

Literary sources for this history play include Raphael Holinshed (c. 1528-c. 1580) who wrote; “The Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland” (2nd ed., 1587) as well as the Anonymous play “The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth” (c. 1586) and Robert Fabyan’s (?-1513) historical work “New Chronicles of England and France” (1516). Other influences are Samuel Daniel (c.1562-1619) who wrote; “The Civil Wars between the Two Houses of Lancaster and Yorke” (1595-1609). Charlton Ogburn suggests that the play was written shortly before the Earl of Oxford set out for his travels abroad in 1574, just after “Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit” is secretly published by Henry Chettle with a parody of Shakespeare’s line (tiger’s heart) from Henry VIth Part 3. Traditionally, Shakespeare’s play Henry Vth is presumed to have been first performed in 1599 although several academics have recently suggested that it was written some years earlier, probably 1584-5. A corrupted text of the play was entered into the Stationer’s Register in August 1600 where it was said to have been performed “sundry times by the Right Honourable the Lord Chamberlain’s Men”. The disagreements have arisen over certain textual references, the use of a chorus before each act or the topical allusions found which rule out a much later date. It was originally thought that this was the last of eight plays featuring medieval history, but this again is questionable chronologically. It would seem that Shakespeare would have written four more plays representing historical events from 1398-1420 highlighting the political and religious circumstances that led to the civil strife connected to the authenticity of royal succession in England. The Quarto version of the text, which may have been derived from the playwright’s original manuscript or “foul papers”, varies from the 1623 Folio version. The Quarto has a number of different characters involved as well as what they say which suggests the writers’ attempt at some revision following rehearsal or early performance. The editor of the Quarto text, Gary Taylor (Oxford Clarendon Press 1982) suggests that the replacement of the Duke of Bourbon for the heir apparent Dauphin in some speeches and scenes is an attempt to set the Dauphin up as a viable adversary to Henry Bolingbroke thereby strengthening Henry’s own claim to rightful accession to the English throne. Both Folio (F) and Quarto (Q) have King Charles ordering the Dauphin to remain with him at Rouen. However, the Quarto version has the Dauphin conspicuously absent from the battlefield, suggesting he was weak and infirm or relying on a woman to protect him. The Folio version suffers from several compositing errors which modern editors have subsequently clarified or removed altogether. From a purely propagandist viewpoint the play gives Shakespeare the opportunity to discuss, assay and allay the issue facing his own Queen Elizabeth Ist, her own claim to legitimate succession being equally suspect, particularly from a Catholic perspective. The play refers obliquely to the past, to the present as well as the future. If it was written or played just before the major campaigns in Ireland, that would exclude an academic conventional interpretation of an allusion to the Earl of Essex, who set off on his disastrous campaign in 27th March, 1599 only to return empty-handed in September.

The links to my publications “Shakespeare’s Qaballah”, a Companion to Shakespeare Studies and my anthology of poetry, “Parthenogenesis” are as follows:


Website: www.qudosacademy.org

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