How is the issue of dramatic representation explored in the Prologue of Act III in Henry V?
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The notion of dramatic representation is one that the character of the Chorus is devoted to, as his principal role seems to be to plead with the audience to overlook the various limitations of the stage and how they are unable to depict the various sights and scenes of the play. He thus asks the audience to exert the power of their imagination to help them in the suspension of disbelief, to enable them to see the various sights that he brings to life through his rousing orations. This prologue is no exception, as the Chorus asks us to imagine the sight of a huge fleet of ships embarking for France from England, and then brings us to the first of Henry's sieges in Harfleur when he arrives there with his troops. Consider the following example of how dramatic representation is referred to, and note the use of imperative verbs as the Chorus compels the audience to use their imagination:
Play with your fancies, and in them behold
Upon the hempen tackle ship-boys climbing;
Hear the shrill whistle which doth order give
To sounds confused; behold the threaden sails,
Borne with the invisible and creeping wind,
Draw the huge bottoms through the furrow'd sea,
Breasting the lofty surge...
One of the roles of the Chorus in this excellent example of a history play is to "fill in the gaps" as it were of what the stage cannot show by imploring the audience to imagine those things with the help of his powerful descriptions. Here, we are made to see the sight of the fleet sailing towards France full of soldiers and ready to fight for Henry, even though of course the stage itself would not have contained any ships. Dramatic representation is therefore something that is related to the willing suspension of disbelief and the way that the audience had to imagine the various scenes that the stage could not depict.
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