Nostalgia and the Not Yet Late Queen: Refusing Female Rule in Henry V
Katherine Eggert, University of Colorado, Boulder
Within the last decade, Henry V has assumed a surprisingly prominent place not only in Shakespeare criticism, but in wider critical debates over the relations between literature and hegemonic political power. Prompted by Stephen Greenblatt's widely influential consideration of the Henriad in his essay "Invisible Bullets," various critics have staked out Shakespeare's only real "war play" as their own battlefield for contesting, as Jean Howard puts it, "how and why a culture produces and deals with challenges to its dominant ideologies."1 Whatever their ideological stance, however, these critics have largely left untested Greenblatt's crucial assumption that, in the Henriad's counterpoint between hegemony and subversion (or at least imagined subversion), hegemony resides with and emerges from the Elizabethan monarchy, and subversion (even if illusory) resides with and emerges from the Elizabethan stage. In this essay I want to contend that Henry V is a Shakespearean experiment in exercising precisely the reverse relation between throne and theater. If we fully consider this play's historical moment—its production late in the reign of not simply a monarch, but a queen—then Henry V's association between theatrical enterprise and the enterprises of a dauntingly masculine monarch grants theater not the power of subversion, but rather the power of patriarchy, which is asserted over and against the waning and increasingly disparaged power of female rule.
I wish, then, to begin by addressing the first long speech in Henry V, and one of the longest in the play: the Arch-bishop of Canterbury's disquisition on Salic law, the French tradition that kingship may never be claimed via descent from a woman. The mercenary motives behind Canterbury's speech, and their influence on how we view Henry's decision to fight for dominion of France, have been much debated; nevertheless, most critics have found it difficult to construe this speech itself as anything but a throwaway, a purely legalistic discussion that merely gives Henry the excuse to act.2 But I will argue that in fact Henry V is deeply concerned with Salic law, and—the Archbishop to the contrary—interested in how the English might safely take the French side of the Salic-law issue: that is to say, how an English king might legitimately claim political power without having derived any of that power from a woman. If monarchical power in Henry V is indeed intimately bound up with theatrical power, the play's concern with the ruler's gender also becomes one of characterizing dramatic power as wholly and properly male.
Salic law is never again mentioned in the play after this early scene; but we may begin to investigate its submerged importance by following Leah Marcus's lead in her study of 1 Henry VI, and asking ourselves why Salic law might be an issue topical to the writing of Henry V.3 The far more obviously topical reference in Henry V is the one that pinpoints the date of the play to an unusually precise degree: that is, the Chorus's allusion to the Earl of Essex, "the general of our gracious empress," and his anticipated triumph over the Irish (5.Chor.29-34). These lines, described by Gary Taylor as "the only explicit, extra-dramatic, incontestable reference to a contemporary event anywhere in the [Shakespearean] canon," locate the play as having been written in the late spring or early summer of 1599.4 But this same allusion—in its chronological specificity, in its naming of Essex, and in its hopeful (if cautious) projection of male conquest—also serves to locate the play firmly in that time of increasing speculation over who should rule when England's now-aged gracious empress would be gone. Essex himself was deeply embroiled in the controversy, as he and Elizabeth's Secretary Robert Cecil in turn sought favor from James VI of Scotland, Elizabeth's likely but by no means guaranteed successor. The Jesuit polemicist Robert Parsons's 1594 Conference about the next succession to the crowne of Ingland, even while advocating a Catholic successor to the throne, is dedicated to Essex, because "no man [is] like to haue a greater part or sway in deciding of this great affair…"5Henry V's uniquely topical reference thus circles back, via Essex's ambition to influence royal succession, to the play's Salic law speech: Parsons's tract, like others produced in the succession debates of the 1580s and 1590s, mentions Salic law as a precedent for measures that might promote only desirable candidates to the throne.6
Behind the generally respectful pleas to Elizabeth to name a successor—pleas provoked by Parsons's tract—lay an anxiety about what the succession controversy might mean: not simply the hope of having a ruler after Elizabeth, but rather the desire to have a ruler instead of Elizabeth. Joel Hurstfield describes how Bishop Godfrey Goodman, writing during the reign of Charles I, remembered of this time that "the people were very generally weary of an old woman's government."7 Testimony in the 1598 trial of one Edward Fraunces, accused of attempting to seduce an Elizabeth Baylie, revealed that Fraunces had remarked "that the land had been happy if Her Majesty had been cut off 20 years since, so that some noble prince might have reigned in her stead."8 The 1599 crisis in government later precipitated by Essex's Irish failure, a failure caused in part by his lack of support from either Cecil or his always-cautious queen, seems to have marked a watershed in the increase of the people's discontent. When Oxford's Regius Professor of Divinity Thomas Holland "printed in 1601 his accession-day sermon of two years earlier, … [he] found it necessary to preface it with 'An Apologetical Discourse' against those who opposed the celebration of 17 November [Elizabeth's accession day] as a Holy Day."9 Perhaps most telling of all is the bill passed by Parliament in 1601 "to prohibit the writing and publishing of books about the title to the Crown of this realm, and the authority of the Government thereof, subjects being thus led into false errors and traitorous attempts against the This Queen, into private factions, unlawful bonds, & c."10 This injunction may have prevented the publication of manuscripts like that of the Lincolnshire rector Henry Hooke, who in 1601 or 1602 wrote of his desire "that what corruptions in iustice, what blemishes in religion, the infirmitie, and inconueniency of woemanhead, would not permitt to discouer and discerne, the vigor, and conueniency of man sytting as king in the throne of aucthoritie; maye diligently search out, and speedylie reforme."11
Such grumblings about the queen indicate a partial turn from the anti-gynecocratic sentiments of the beginning of her reign, whose obsession had been the possibility of a "female nature" overtaking its bounds when it took over a country, her sexuality ruling both her actions and her nation.12 Later writings of a less "theoretical" nature, polemically directed against either Elizabeth or Mary Queen of Scots, had continued in this same vein: their ire, which came to a head in the circumstances surrounding Mary Queen of Scots's 1587 execution, had focused on the dissipation of these two women's bodies, their lust for power commingling itself with physical venery. These invectives had imagined the indirection into which a queen's realm is led as a wild, careening path governed only by the whims of a woman's pernicious sexual desire—making her country into a "cuntry," as the expatriate Cardinal of England William Allen pointedly spelled the word.13 In the 1590s, in contrast, England for the first time also considered its queen's body as a decaying body, and her rule as one that would lead the country nowhere at all. J. E. Neale identifies the late-Elizabethan "sense of ennui… stealing over court and country" as having been caused by "a credulous desire of novelty and change, hoping for better times, despising the present, and forgetting favours past."14 In 1602, as England waited ever more impatiently for Elizabeth to hand over both state and succession to a king, her godson Sir John Harington wrote, "I find some less mindful of what they are soon to lose, than of what they may perchance hereafter get."15 Carole Levin has studied how late Elizabethan unrest over the state of its monarchy prompted the revival of rumors from Mary Tudor's time—rumors that Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth Tudor's brother, had not died in 1553 but was about to return as savior of his people.16 If such desires could be attached to the figure of a less than mythic boy-king who had reigned only six years, the fantasy of the return of legitimate male rule must indeed have been powerful.
The wish for the return of a king who had been dead some forty years is eerily echoed in Henry V. Of course, the entire second historical tetralogy broods upon as well as enacts the movement of royal succession: from Richard II's sneer at Bolingbroke, "Here, cousin, seize the crown," to Henry IV imagining "th'unguided days / And rotten times that you shall look upon" when his son will replace him as king, these plays ponder what qualifies a man to succeed to the throne. Theatrical precedent for Henry V—at least two versions of the story had preceded Shakespeare's to the stage, one entitled the Famous Victories of Henry V—might have led Shakespeare to supply an untroubled answer to the question of who shall be next to rule, an answer granting England the forward national motion of military triumph.17 But this question as it is first posed in Henry V indicates that matters will not be quite so straightforward. Canterbury's Salic law speech first brings up succession in regard to France, not England; and his determination of who ought to rule there is initially based on a recitation of who has ruled there in the past. Because previous French kings have claimed the throne through descent from a female, so might Henry. Moreover, as Canterbury goes on to assert, Henry's English forefathers, Edward III and Edward the Black Prince, conquered France; it is from them that Henry should take his inspiration. Though no one in the play will ever again discuss Salic law, several speakers will return to this backward-looking temporal argument as prescriptive. Forward-moving, decisive action is to be had by recalling, even replicating the past; Henry will be victorious when he imitates his great-grandfather, Edward III.
But in the slippage between the two prongs of Canterbury's argument—his debunking of Salic law, and his invocation of Edward III—resides the issue with which Henry V must grapple, both in terms of England's edginess about its elderly queen and in terms of the gender affiliations of the theater itself. In a late Elizabethan context, this slippage is equivalent to a shift between first upholding Elizabeth's reign (via defending a woman's place in royal lineage), and then abandoning this loyalty to look forward, by looking back, to a restored male rule. Even more interesting for theater, however, is the altered tone that accompanies the shift. The stirring phrasing of Canterbury's reference to mythic Edward and his son, especially after the dry, convoluted, even specious recital of the French monarchy's derivation, has the immediate effect of associating male rule with compelling theater—unlike female rule, which remains embedded in dull chronicle. Canterbury's imagery serves to reinforce his rhetorical pitch, as he describes an heir to the English throne who exercises consummate dramatic control:
Edward the Black Prince,
Who on the French ground play'd a tragedy,
Making defeat on the full power of France;
Whiles his most mighty father on a hill
Stood smiling to behold his lion's whelp
Forage in blood of French nobility.
But if Henry is to recapitulate Edward Ill's blend of high drama and English triumph, he must himself enact the shift in Canterbury's declamation, and leave behind the contingencies of female rule upon which he ostensibly bases his royal claim. The image of theatrical success Canterbury employs, moreover, hints that Henry V's sense of its own triumph will involve an analogous rejection of any female ingredient of theatrical effectiveness. This hint has already been developed in the play's opening lines—by the Prologue, whose level of anxiety about whether the stage can evoke belief leads us to examine more closely the gender affiliations of the theater, of the audience, and of the theatrical creation itself. As David Willbern notes, the Prologue's claims of theatrical inefficacy are coupled with its portrayal of the theater as an essentially female space: a pregnant, womblike, crammable O that is expected to bring forth heroes of the past full-blown.18 Although the Prologue's reference to "this swelling scene" might be interpreted as phallic as much as gestatory, further lines develop the theater as a scene of feminine reproduction, as the "cockpit" that both holds ("girdles") and brings forth the theatrical scene. Given the way female or feminized characters in Shakespeare's previous history plays (Joan La Pucelle, Margaret of Anjou, Mortimer's Welsh wife, and especially Falstaff) typically disrupt epic male intentions, we might suspect a feminized theater to obstruct the presentation of "the warlike Harry." The Prologue both recalls and goes some way toward recuperating this dilemma. The continuing metaphor of the actors as little "O's" themselves, "ciphers to this great accompt," remembers Joan and Falstaff by construing the actors as enacting a theatrical seduction in which the audience acts as the passive partner: "Let us … on your imaginary forces work" (1. Pro. 17-18). But the introduction of the word "forces" signals a shift in the erotic energies of this proposed imaginative encounter. If the "forces" at hand belong to the audience, not the stage, then the scene is changed from one of theatrical seduction to one of theatrical conception; the audience is no ravished victim, but rather the Aristotelian male whose imagination imposes form upon the staged matter: "Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts; / Into a thousand parts divide one man, / and make imaginary puissance" (23-25).19 This refiguration of a feminine theater into a site of dramatic inability hence ironically proves to be an enabling maneuver for Henry V. For if the theater is female only insofar as it is a womblike container, then the heroes it reproduces, like the audience response that gives them life, may be characterized as males untainted by feminine seductive skill. Henry V declares the stage female only to turn attention away from that stage, so that it can propose male authority as the sole, unassailable, authority—both kingly and dramatic.
The high stakes of this realignment of theatrical gender become encoded throughout Henry V, as the play's action, language, and imagery are equally bent on purging England and the English of all that is feminine. In fact, the play seems highly devoted to affirming a kind of Salic law of its own, contrary though that may be to Henry's legal justification for action: by the end of the play, as we shall see, Canterbury's initial repudiation of Salic law is so far forgotten that it is easy for us too to forget what side Henry initially took. First of all, the play's language continues insistently to derive Henry's ancestry as solely patrilineal. Even in Canterbury's opening scene with Ely, before he has showcased his explication of Salic law, he promises to recall Henry's descent from Edward III for him by revealing "The severals and unhidden passages / Of his true titles to some certain dukedoms, / And generally to the crown and seat of France, / Deriv'd from Edward, his great-grandfather" (1.1.86-89). In the ensuing rehearsal of the reasons by which Salic law may be discounted, as Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield have noted, Henry's genealogy is never traced further back than this single shining male forebear.20 In historical fact—which Shakespeare knew from Holinshed, not to mention from the Shakespeare-apocrypha play The Reign of Edward III, published in quarto in 1596 and 1599—Edward Ill's own claim to France was derived through his mother, Isabella of France (daughter of the French king Philip IV and wife of the ill-fated English king Edward II); but the play never so much as mentions this Isabella, the Frenchwoman whose womb bore England's great king.21 Her name appears in this case only as a distant echo in Canterbury's genealogy of the French monarchy, as a different, more distant Isabella, the French "fair Queen Isabel" from whom "King Lewis the Tenth" derived his claim to the French throne (1.2.76-82). (Later, she is reincarnated as the queen of France, whose name "Isabel" appears in the Folio stage directions heading act 5, scene 2.) The language of the play therefore manages to deflect all matrilinear contingencies from the English onto the French: apparently only the French, not the English, claim their rule through the female, reversing what ought to be the two countries' historical positions on Salic law.22
Moreover, this reconfiguration of Henry's ancestry joins with England's imperial designs upon France to solidify the English monarchy's final identification with the male: if France is posited as female, Henry can then attribute phallic qualities to both England and its king. Henry imagines that his mere appearance will strike fear into the hearts of his enemies, blinding/castrating the Dauphin, the only man who seems to stand in the way of his conquest: "I will rise there with so full a glory / That I will dazzle all the eyes of France, / Yea, strike the Dauphin blind to look on us" (1.2.278-80).23 The Dauphin's challenge brings relief in the form not only of a final excuse for invading France, but also of a welcome reassignment of England's gender identity: a country that is not the invaded, but the invader; led not by an indecisive group of squabbling nobles, but by a king who promises to replicate 1 Henry VI 's memorial reconstruction of him as fabled hero, whose "sparkling eyes, replete with wrathful fire, / More dazzled and drove back his enemies / Than mid-day sun fierce bent against their faces" (/ Henry VI, 1.1.12-14).24 Not that France, upon Henry's arrival, assumes a female role without protest: signs of male-male struggle initially remain, not so much (oddly enough) in the scenes surrounding battle, but rather in the rivalry between Henry and the Dauphin, whose language begins by resisting an English accumulation of all male and patrilineal identity. The Dauphin characterizes the two countries' contest as one between French fathers who have been careless about spreading their seed, and their English sons, now eager to "out-spirt" their progenitors.
O Dieu vivant! shall a few sprays of us,
The emptying of our fathers' luxury,
Our scions, put in wild and savage stock
Spirt up so suddenly into the clouds
And overlook their grafters?
Both Walter and Taylor gloss "spirt" as "sprout," one of the word's sixteenth-century meanings; but in so doing they gloss over another sense available to Shakespeare, the one now spelled "spurt."25 If we compound the English sprouting with their spurting, the Dauphin's objection to the English seems to be that they are attempting an ejaculation contest with their fathers. Hence, his description of the French-English rivalry points interestingly at a fact the English seem carefully to repress—that their remoter forefathers were not English heroes, but Norman conquerors who at their will ravished English women. Here is an account of English ancestry that subverts the national gender distinctions Henry is trying to enforce—but it is an account not allowed any free play in Henry V. Instead, France is eventually reconceived on all fronts as matching the English image of it. Even as the Dauphin himself is increasingly portrayed as laughably effeminate, a soldier more absorbed with praising his horse—which is a "palfrey," a lady's horse (3.7.28)—than with encountering the English in pitched battle, the rest of the French often anticipate and thus seem to accept the feminization of their homeland and its openness to English ravishment. When the French king refers to Henry's ancestry, he describes not Henry's Norman forefathers, but rather the Edward III whose memory the English also enshrine, and who saw his "heroical seed" make hay of the seed of French fathers. With Henry as the "stem" of this "stock," whatever contest of virility there may be between the French and the English seems already decided:
The kindred of him hath been flesh'd upon us,
And he is bred out of that bloody strain
That haunted us in our familiar paths;
Witness our too much memorable shame
When Cressy battle fatally was struck,
And all our princes captiv'd by the hand
Of that black name, Edward, Black Prince of
Whiles that his mountain sire, on mountain
Up in the air, crown'd with the golden sun,
Saw his heroical seed, and smil'd to see him,
Mangle the work of nature, and deface
The patterns that by God and by French fathers
Had twenty years been made. This is a stem
Of that victorious stock; and let us fear
The native mightiness and fate of him.
Edward III had a French mother, but she is forgotten in the recollection of this "mountain sire's" triumph.
As Henry's army advances into France, England's military conquest becomes even more baldly interwined with England's own patrilineal identity and France's hapless effeminizing. Henry's most thrilling martial speech, his exhortation to his troops to plunge "once more unto the breach," is famously thick with images of stiffening and arousal, images that become inextricable from an insistence upon the paternal heritage of Henry's "dear friends." The maternal is present only as a caution to the negative: if a soldier is not hardened, he proves his mother unchaste. "Dishonour not your mothers; now attest / That those whom you call'd fathers did beget you" (3.1.22-23). In addition to guaranteeing sexual prowess, martial arousal also purges one's family of any uncertainty contingent on the female; these are "noblest English! / Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof ' (3.1.17-18). And by the time Henry threatens the siege of Harfleur, he unmistakably poses military conquest as the English violation of a French woman: first metaphorically, as he menaces the "half-achiev'd Harfleur" with the prospect of "the flesh'd soldier, rough and hard of heart" (3.3.7, 10); then literally, as he tosses off a prediction of the townswomen being raped by English troops.
Immediately upon the closure of this scene—a closure in which Harfleur's governor earns mercy by inviting Henry to "Enter the gates" of his now thoroughly feminized city (3.3.49)—Katharine of France makes her first appearance. She will, by the end of the play embody what Henry has come to France to achieve: not just a female France, but France in the person of a female. And as sweetly amusing as her "language lesson" scene may be, it contains extraordinarily dark hints of how Henry's conquest of her will come to replace a purely military rape of France. Contrary to what one might expect from having played this "naming game" with a child, Katharine does not begin her instruction with the obvious features of the face—eye, nose, mouth, and so on. Rather, the words she learns echo, either directly or indirectly, earlier language pertaining to the invasion of her country. The word hand recalls the "bloody hand" and "foul hand" of English soldiery with which Henry has just threatened Harfleur; she also learns fingers, nails, arm, and elbow, words that serve to give an image of that hand its full shape and extension. She learns neck, a word reminiscent of the throats Pistol and Nym longed to cut (2.1.22, 92); chin, which reminds us of the barely bearded chins of those who followed Henry to France; and foot, another echo of Pistol and Nym's contentious exchange ("thy fore-foot to me give" [2.1.67]).26 And, as C. L. Barber and Richard Wheeler remark, the foot and count that so embarrass her invoke for us both the besieged walls of France's violated cities, and the soonto-be-won Princess herself.27 Even the mistakes Katharine makes serve to substitute military terms for the words she is supposed to be learning. Instead of nails she says mails; instead of elbow, bilbow—which can refer either to a type of sword, or to iron fetters (like the fetters of arranged matrimony in which the Princess will soon find herself). All her bobblings of the language, then, are directed toward her upcoming part in Henry's project of conquest: as she learns English, her own speech absorbs the English military and sexual might that is being brought to bear on her country.28
Henry's peacemaking and wooing activities in act 5 are therefore not romantic or comedic incongruities, as Samuel Johnson grumpily contended, but rather part and parcel of successfully reassigning English and French national gender.29 First of all, the Dauphin—last seen in 4.5 cursing the conquering English—is unaccountably absent in the treaty scene (5.2); and second, the language of this scene follows up previous imagery of masculine invasion with resultant imagery of fruition. The queen of France's hope is for a generative "happy issue" of "this gracious meeting" (5.2.12, 20). And Burgundy speaks at length of France as a female garden that needs to be properly husbanded, asking
Why that the naked, poor, and mangled Peace
Dear nurse of arts, plenties, and joyful births,
Should not in this best garden of the world,
Our fertile France, put up her lovely visage?
Alas! she hath from France too long been chas'd
And all her husbandry doth lie on heaps,
Corrupting in it own fertility.
Henry, for his part, does not separate these two discourses, the art of husbandry from the art of military conquest: he is eager to establish the language of love as a male, soldierly language, in which he need relinquish none of his armor and none of his aggression. Even in his attempts to "woo" the French princess, and under pretense of loverlike surrender, he continues to make her precisely equivalent to the cities he has conquered: "For I love France so well that I will not part with a village of it; I will have it all mine: and Kate, when France is mine and I am yours, then yours is France and you are mine" (5.2.178-82). As Katharine's language lesson anticipated, accepting Henry means barely transposing the martial into the marital:
If I could win a lady at leap-frog, or by vaulting into my saddle with my armor on my back, under the correction of bragging be it spoken, I should quickly leap into a wife. Or if I might buffet for my love or bound my horse for her favours, I could lay on like a butcher and sit like a jack-an-apes, never off. (5.2.138-45)
Henry is not so different here from the Dauphin, whose mistress was his horse—except that Henry has before him the woman who will take the horse's place. His language of romance proves to be of a piece with his language of conquest; both win for him a female France.30
Henry has also been engaged since his Prince Hal days with languages other than his own directed speech of warfare—with the languages of Eastcheap and of his own multi-accented army, as well as of his bride. But as both Steven Mullaney and Stephen Greenblatt have argued, Henry ultimately seeks not to partake of these alternative and potentially troublesome languages, but rather to negate their effectiveness, in a process that Greenblatt calls "the recording of alien voices" and that Mullaney describes as ritually purifying all that is base and gross in those voices.31 If we associate this project with Henry's project of gender purification, of sifting all that is female out of England and recording it as French, then we see that Henry will also be obliged to establish his very language as purely masculine, as worthy of a king, not a queen. And in his efforts to do so, we also find the development of a masculine language for the theater, one that draws upon the Prologue's desideratum: to project into others' minds what cannot be physically shown. However, Henry goes beyond even the Prologue's precedent in yoking this projective theatrical technique to a complex of epic paradigms—not only epic's depiction of masculine warfare, of arms and the man, but also epic's obsession with epochal continuance. With the Prologue, the hope for epic was confined to invoking the presence of soldiers the stage could not hold; but Henry projects onto the stage a vision that overgoes not only the limits of physical space but also the limits of time. As he speaks, Henry creates upon the stage he occupies a legend of himself that spans a continuum from the ancestral past to the distant future: in himself, he recalls the puissance of his forebears, and in his language he projects that glory into the time to come.
In short, Henry is the creator of epic theater because he is concerned not only with the immediate future of winning battles and conquering France, as some ordinary hero would be, but also with an extended future in which Henry and his army will be remembered as the "happy band of brothers" that did these heroic deeds. And in a radical break with Aristotelian norms, Henry's rhetorical endeavors to become part of cultural memory cumulatively propose that epic action can remain culturally alive only through recognizably theatrical means. We may begin investigating this proposition by examining a passage in which Henry once again figures victory over France as victory over a woman, and muses on the alternative if such a victory is not forthcoming. Not triumphing means not being remembered; and not being remembered means that no tongue will tell one's tale:
France being ours, we'll bend it to our awe
Or break it all to pieces: or there we'll sit,
Ruling in large and ample empery
O'er France and her almost kingly dukedoms,
Or lay these bones in an unworthy urn,
Tombless, with no remembrance over them:
Either our history shall with full mouth
Speak freely of our acts, or else our grave,
Like Turkish mute, shall have a tongueless
Not worshipp'd with a waxen epitaph.
As in the Prologue's speech, the problem here is one of sufficient "attesting" to the deeds that Henry and his men will perform. For the Prologue, if those deeds were not attested to—if the actors and audience did not together do their imaginative duty—those "flat unraised spirits" would have no life. Here, the opposition drawn is analogous: the living voice, the "full mouth," of historical memory staves off the silent effacement, the "tongueless mouth," of the grave.
From this speech alone, we could perhaps assume that the "history" to which Henry refers his future is a written one, and that its "full mouth" is only metaphorically able to "speak freely." But as the play progresses, and as Henry's concern with inculcating his epic into his culture's memory increases, the "history" he has in mind turns out to require embodiment and reenactment. As he rouses his troops, his intent proves itself not one of erecting a textual monument of or to himself, but rather one of assuring his everlasting reanimation in the form of popular remembrance—in the form of a story that will always be replayed, carved on living bodies and in living minds:
He that shall see this day, and live old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say, "Tomorrow is Saint Crispian":
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say, "These wounds I had on Crispin's
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our
Familiar in his mouth as household words,
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered.
The confidence of Henry's projections for the future causes his vision to override the theatrical shortcomings raised by the timorous Prologue.32 His pronouncements of what shall be remembered enact both the appearance of the epic scene and its subsequent legendary status, in a way the Prologue protests it cannot. Whereas the Prologue throws up its hands at the idea that a cockpit might hold the vasty fields of France, Henry declares those fields to be already present, the site of a battle immediately recognizable as historic.
Henry. What is this castle that stands hard by?
Montjoy. They call it Agincourt.
Henry. Then call we this the field of Agincourt,
Fought on the day of Crispin Crispianus.
Henry continues to install himself in history in this way, referring to his own story as something that will be known, recited, and compared "with advantages" to other wellknown stories. With advantages, because his version is a dramatic one: not Holinshed but Henry V, not a history but a history play. "When," he asks after hearing the numbers of the battle-dead, "without strategem, / But in plain shock and even play of battle, / Was ever known so great and little loss / On one part and on th'other?" (4.8.110-14). Never, the audience is obliged to answer; for it knows his feats even as he recalls them for it. Henry here makes of himself a "famous memory," one that will carry him for all time—as if built into his character is an awareness of his being staged, over and over again, as the king who is England's savior.
But this desire for epic extension in the theater brings Henry back to the issue of Salic law and its attendant concerns of gender and genealogy. For Henry is engaged in making history not only by being himself eternally remembered, but also by extending his male lineage into the future. As with The Faerie Queene's genealogical shorings-up of the Tudor myth, epic in Henry V is as much a matter of fictionalized patrilineal descent as it is a matter of heroic action. Act 5 thus hangs Henry's epic hopes, as well as England's masculinity, on his conquest of the French princess: Henry's wooing speech is directly concerned with the male offspring that he and Katharine will produce; and in his phrasing, Katharine's part in this process is minimized, so the fact that the woman will be a part of the family tree is suppressed as much as possible. It is almost as if Henry himself, with the help of the soldier-saints Denis and George, can produce an heir, one who will finally carry out the crusading dream of Henry's father: "Shall not thou and I, between Saint Denis and Saint George, compound a boy, half French, half English, that shall go to Constantinople and take the Turk by the beard?" (5.2.215-18).
The extent to which Henry's effort at epic posterity is plausible, however, also depends on the power of his theatrical vision, since to be persuasive, Henry's projection of the future must convincingly rewrite that future—a future already known to a theater audience that had witnessed in the early 1590s the turmoil of Shakespeare's first historical tetralogy, the Henry VI plays and Richard III. As Christopher Pye remarks, "The sequence of the history plays makes Henry V the one king who returns from the grave."33 Only by writing the two tetralogies in reverse historical order—the earlier segment of history after the later—could Shakespeare make this revision possible: in the theater's version of history, Henry V succeeds Henry VI. This reversal further enables the erasure of the female from the English monarchy. With Henry V, the first tetralogy's rule of ravishing women and a monstrous man is finally succeeded by that of a glorious king, who promises to live on both in cultural memory and in his male progeny. Marjorie Garber's account of Richard III provides an instructive contrast: if the deformed Richard III equally deforms history to suit himself, as Garber asserts, then Henry's revision of history strikes us as corrective, for it counteracts the deformity of which Richard III was the apex.34
We might call this retrospective revival of kingship nostalgic, since it looks to England's heroic past for an antidote to more recent troubles—unwon wars, unrevivified kings. But it is more than nostalgic, for nostalgia, in its reiteration that things aren't what they used to be, presupposes that the past can never come again. As Exeter in 1 Henry VI put it, "Henry [the Fifth] is dead and never shall revive" (1.1.18). Henry V, in contrast, gives voice to the fantastical, irrational desires to which nostalgia, when intensified to the point of supersaturation, gives way: that the past may return, that the dead are indeed alive, that historic heroism may replace the feminine chaos and decay that are the audience's more recent memory—both their memory of what has happened in Shakespeare's first historical tetralogy and, increasingly, their memory of what has been happening in the English monarchy of the late 1590s. Surely Henry V itself has a great stake in what we might term this "supernostalgia"; for, as the Prologue demonstrates at the play's very beginning, only when the stage gives way to Henry's self-staging does the theater convey its object. Although the Prologue bemoans the lack of a genuine monarch—a "warlike Harry" who, "like himself," will "assume the port of Mars" (l.Pro.5-6)—in the progress of the play we witness a Henry who self-consciously does just that, taking on the bearing of a soonto-be-mythic hero.
And yet there is also a certain tension, as well as symbiosis, between the play's creation of Henry and Henry's creation of himself, a tension that keeps alive the question of whether the epic mode is entirely possible, or even desirable, for theater. I wish now to return to the play's affiliations with the feminine, and how they force Henry V to stand at a certain uneasy distance from Henry V and his Salic-law visions of male perpetuity. For once the stage has limited itself to being a womblike space that only contains, and does not disrupt, male epic activity, it raises doubts about its own ability to match Henry in his supernostalgic task, bringing forth a King Henry who will take his place in history. The Prologue identifies Henry as one of the "mighty monarchies" who are "now confin'd" in the playhouse, "within the girdle of these walls"; but what if, after this pregnant image, the theater's confinement does not bring a living Henry into the world? As the Chorus reappears at the beginning of acts 2 and 3, these fears begin to insinuate themselves deeply into its rhetoric, resulting in something more than traditional, offhand protestations of theatrical inadequacy. In act 2, the Chorus's unsettling transformation of womb imagery to intestinal imagery hints that its presentation of Henry will not be so easy: "Linger your patience on; and we'll digest / Th'abuse of distance; force a play" (2.Chor.31-32). And the Chorus's excessively pleading, insistent tone in act 3 reinforces the difficulty of the audience's meeting its obligations in the act of theatrical engendering: in urging the audience to "O do but think," "follow, follow," "grapple," and "work, work," the Chorus takes on the tone of an extremely demanding lover, who hopes past all hope that her partner will provide the heat necessary for conception, since she cannot (3.Chor.l7-18, 25).
Even the Chorus's act 4 speech, which seems to offer a chance at faith in theatrical generativity, ultimately corrodes any such confidence. A momentary glimpse of dramatic attainment comes about primarily because the Chorus applies the imagery of a womb-like space not solely to the walls of the theater building, as a "girdle" that holds the actors, but rather to "the wide vessel of the universe" that holds the opposing armies of the English and the French. With this transfer of images, the space of the theater expands to become coequal with the space of all creation; and Henry and his band are alive, in the world, and on the verge of triumph. We are truly watching the living Henry as the Chorus petitions us, "O, now, who will behold / The royal captain of this ruin'd band / Walking from watch to watch, from tent to tent, / Let him cry, 'Praise and glory on his head!"' (4.Chor.29-31). But if act 4's Chorus refers to "the wide vessel of the universe" as one container for its hero, it also mentions "the foul womb of night" as another; and this image of a malevolent womb, with the force of female Nature behind it, calls into question the Prologue's notion that a womb, theatrical or not, can and ought to be imagined as a neutral "vessel"—as an artificed container that cannot influence its own contents. In act 5 the epic vision contained in the theater's womb is shown in several ways to be far from impervious to forces from without. We might first divine the error of epic complacency from Burgundy's speech about France as a garden requiring husbandry. As Burgundy describes her, France is far from infertile even when not "husbanded"; rather, she is grotesquely fertile, since it is not the masculine scythe or coulter that has made her so:
Her fallow leas
The darnel, hemlock, and rank fumitory
Doth root upon, while that the coulter rusts
That should deracinate such savagery;
The even mead, that erst brought sweetly forth
The freckled cowslip, burnet, and green clover,
Wanting the scythe, all uncorrected, rank,
Conceives by idleness and nothing teems
But hateful docks, rough thistles, kecksies, burrs,
Losing both beauty and utility.
Here the female is hardly a passive vessel of reproduction: when she is left to her own devices, the result is a kind of female parthenogenesis, where nature's prickly products grow in the absence of men's tools.
Katharine of France herself, the particular Frenchwoman on whose womb Henry's epic project will depend, does not display this extremity of willfulness; but she does evince a skepticism that in itself chips away at Henry's epic plans. While Henry is engaged in spinning out a vision of himself as soldier-wooer and his son as triumphant Crusader, Princess Katharine remains reserved and unbelieving. In a single line she forces historical awareness upon the audience, in case Henry's hermetically sealed projection has caused them to forget their history. When Henry asks her what to him no doubt seems a rhetorical question, whether they shall "compound a boy, half French, half English, that shall go to Constantinople and take the Turk by the beard" (5.2.215-18), she answers, with all the knowledge of a woman who has already seen Shakespeare's Henry VI plays: "I do not know dat" (5.2.221). One member of Henry's audience, at least, excuses herself from participating in what Joel Altaian calls Henry's "national sacrificial ritual."35
The remainder of the play reinforces the princess's unbelief by continuing to strain at a Renaissance audience's awareness of a future, both historical and dramatic, quite different from the one Henry believes he is forging. First of all, as Dollimore and Sinfield remind us, the play itself has argued for the improbability of a French king (as Henry's son will be) being man enough to take the Turk by the beard.36 Moreover, after the French and English monarchs close their treaty the French queen makes a speech that, in its forced insistence on the two countries' future amicable relations, violates even the sketchiest grasp of Anglo-French history since Henry V's time. And finally, the Chorus closes the play with multiple reminders of the coming evaporation of this proposed ideal kingship. One of these reminders comes about with the Chorus reverting to imagining the theater itself as a womblike space, "In little room confining mighty men, / Mangling by starts the full course of their glory" (Epi.3-4). The image is a grisly one: this is a womb that maims its progeny, even as it convulsively, "by starts," attempts to bring them into the world. Here the earlier, frenetic tone of the Chorus, begging us to work, work our thoughts, changes to one of failure, as pregnancy results in stillbirth. The image of truncated epic—of a theater that cuts off glory's "full course"—is borne out by the Chorus's last speech, which reverses the salutary effects of the second tetralogy's erasure of the first tetralogy. In this final chorus, Henry V is for the first time inalterably placed in the past tense: "Small time, but in that small most greatly lived / This star of England" (Epi.5-6). And the audience is reminded, to its regret, that what Henry projected as his epic destiny—his foundation of an ever-victorious male dynasty—cannot, and did not, take place in history. In fact the audience may have itself witnessed the unravelling of Henry's achievement:
Henry the Sixth, in infant bands crown'd King
Of France and England, did this king succeed;
Whose state so many had the managing,
That they lost France and made his England
Which oft our stage hath shown.
And yet the Chorus's references to what is to come—or to what has come already, if we think of the audience's familiarity with the Henry VI cycle—are not fully revelatory. The audience is asked to remember the dissolution of powerful male rule under Henry VI; but does it remember the increasing dominance in the Henry VI plays of female rule? I would argue instead that Henry V is, in the end, eager to maintain a certain momentary, if fragile, integrity of masculine rule, to rewrite history so that what we continue to desire is the triumphant resolution, however denied to us, of King Henry. For not only does the Chorus at the play's conclusion omit any reference to the ravishing women who will plague Henry VI's reign, it also neglects to address the future of the woman who has come to symbolize Henry V's fruitful posterity: his queen, Katharine of France. Shakespeare knew what happened to Katharine, as would any Elizabethan who had read the account in Holinshed's Chronicles of Henry VI's reign:
This woman, after the death of king Henrie the fift hir husband, being yoong and lustie, following more hir owne wanton appetite than freendlie counsell, and regarding more priuate affection than princelike honour, tooke to husband priuilie a galant gentleman and a right beautifull person, indued with manie goodlie gifts both of bodie & mind, called Owen Teuther [Tudor], a man descended of the noble linage and ancient line of Cadwallader last king of the Britains. By this Owen she brought forth three goodlie sonnes, Edmund, Jasper, and another that was a monke in Westminster.… which Edmund of Margaret daughter and sole heire to John duke of Summerset begat Henrie, who after was king of this realme, called Henrie the seuenth.38
In other words, Katharine of France lived to become the great-great-grandmother of Elizabeth I.
At first it seems odd that a playwright would let slip this chance to refer to the illustrious lineage of his gracious queen; like Spenser, Shakespeare might have made much of Holinshed's tracing of the Tudor line from Elizabeth back through Owen Tudor to King Arthur himself. The omission seems even odder when we consider that Henry V's only allusion to Katharine of France's subsequent attachment is an oblique and not particularly flattering one, when Pistol tells Fluellen he would not eat the proffered leek "for Cadwallader and all his goats" (5.1.29). Yet the reasoning for the exclusion becomes clearer with reference again to Holinshed; for in tracing Katharine's future, Shakespeare would have had to confront both her indelible presence in English monarchical lineage—indelible unlike Henry's, whose line died with his son—and her changed nature. She proved to become not simply the regrettably necessary female component of Henry V's progenitive project, nor even the skeptical commentator on his soldierly rhetoric. Rather, the Katharine of the Chronicles became the forerunner of Joan La Pucelle and Margaret of Anjou, ravishing Frenchwomen all: all young, lusty and following more their own wanton appetites than friendly counsel, and regarding more private affection than princelike honor. Had the Henry VI plays extended her story, these associations would inevitably have been drawn.
But so, too, would the association have been drawn between Katharine of France and Elizabeth Tudor herself, an association not only of blood, but of temperament. Elizabeth's "wanton appetites" continued in the 1590s to provide fodder for Catholic propagandists, who painted her as even more unnaturally lascivious because of her age.39 Even more importantly, Elizabeth's independent will increasingly frustrated the members of her council, who were all by this point at least one generation younger than she, and were highly impatient at her stubborn refusal to follow their advice and chart a purposeful course. In its extreme their frustration led to comments like that of the ambitious Earl of Essex—the same Essex whose triumph the play anticipates—who once remarked that the queen's mind had become as crooked as her carcass.40 Obscuring Katharine of France's subsequent career thus serves to seal Henry V's refusal of female rule. Exemplifying as it does those traits that England most feared in its queen, Katharine's completed story would incurably compromise the play's presentation of a successful male conquest. Hence Henry V in the end does, in the largest sense, impose Salic law. By excluding Katharine's Tudor marriage, the play effectively cancels the woman's part in English succession, and instead hails Henry V as the sole shaper of kingship. In this way the play proposes its own very real, and arguably hegemonic, alternative to late Elizabethan authority—an alternative that may be not only preferred, but witnessed and believed in. Even if the play does not erase all memory of the first tetralogy's female rule, it does succeed in erasing Elizabeth, first by shaping England as an entirely male dominant body with France as its female victim, then by eliminating Katharine of France as Elizabeth's female forebear.
Henry V therefore rehearses and resolves English involvement with female authority on several fronts: politically, since through its silence on Katharine's future it finally asserts that both authority and its familial succession ought to be an entirely male purview; and dramatically, since with its choice of hero it counters the antitheatricalist anxiety that theater, feminine in itself, effeminizes its audience.41 In 1592 Thomas Nashe had brought up an earlier dramatic treatment of Henry V to contend, against the antitheatricalist writers, that theater can in fact correct national effeminacy—first simply by providing men an alternative to visiting whorehouses, but second by bringing England's male ancestry back to life:
Nay, what if I prooue Playes to be no extreame; but a rare exercise of vertue? First, for the subiect of them (for the most part) is borrowed out of our English Chronicles, wherein our forefathers valiant acts (that haue laine long buried in rustie brasse and worme-eaten bookes) are reuiued, and they themselues raised from the Graue of oblivion, and brought to pleade their aged Honours in open presence: than which, what can be a sharper reproofe to these degenerate effeminate dayes of ours?42
In Nashe's terms, Henry V would encourage the late Elizabethan theater audience to follow Henry's Salic-law model and purge the feminine from themselves, and from their country. Nostalgia for patrilineage revives patriarchy out of its "grave of oblivion": Shakespeare's history declares the degenerate authority of queenship to be not subverted, but overcome.43
I wish to follow this seemingly resounding assertion of patriarchal authority, however, with a qualification. (If we have learned anything from the critical debates to which readings of Henry V have contributed, it is that authority is always qualified.) At the beginning of this essay I suggested that Henry V is a Shakespearean experiment—an experiment that, I believe, itself demonstrates its own unrepeatability. In the end, the extreme, insistent quality of Henry V s corrective revival of male authority exposes that revival as an undesirable model for theater. Henry V's commitment to epic requires theater to marginalize and neutralize its identification with the feminine; but in that case, the theater runs the risk of disenabling or at least limiting its own power. For what if the audience does not believe? What if the play's protestations of being an inadequate womb prevail? If the play convinces, then its cancellation of female authority survives. But if the illusion does not succeed, and Henry V is still-born, then the theater has disabled its own enterprise rather than discontinuing the waning enterprise of England's queen. For Shakespeare's resolution of this problem, we can only speculate on the fact that Henry V remains sui generis in the canon: Shakespeare undertook no other history play until he redefined history as romance in Henry VIII; nor did he so thoroughly conflate dramatic authority and masculine rule until The Tempest, a play that stages long before its epilogue the unraveling of that rule.
Norman Rabkin's notorious formulation about Henry V is that he is patterned like the Gestalt drawing that may be seen as a rabbit or as a duck, but never as both at the same time: Henry is either an exemplary monarch, or a notorious Machiavel.44 My version of this conundrum involves theatrical rather than moral considerations: not whether Henry is a good king or a bad king, but whether theater should or should not attach its being and its success to a burgeoning kingship. The play raises unallayed anxieties about the achievability of Henry's heroic project at the same time that it registers a deep and abiding desire for that project. In this way Henry V situates itself most poignantly not as the play that most celebrates the Tudor myth, but as the play that most commemorates the approaching end of a Tudor queen. The looked-for exclusion of female authority leaves both nation and theater anxiously peering into the past, looking there for a recording of their own destiny: Henry V translates its culture's memory of a triumphant historical king into expectation for the future—and yet at the same time adulterates that expectation with anticipated disappointment.
My thanks to Janet Adelman, Stephen Greenblatt, Elihu Pearlman, and especially Lindsay Kaplan for reading and responding to the many drafts of this essay, and to Harry Berger, Jr., Margaret Ferguson, and Mark Winokur for their invaluable suggestions and encouragement.
1 Jean E. Howard, "The New Historicism in Renaissance Studies," English Literary Renaissance 16 (1986): 39. The first version of Greenblatt's essay appeared in Glyph 8 (1981): 40-61; the most recent is included in his Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1988), 21-65. Another notable and influential treatment of Henry V's strategies of ideological containment has been Jonathan Dollimore's and Alan Sinfield's essay "History and Ideology: The Instance of Henry V, " originally published in Alternative Shakespeares, ed. John Drakakis (London: Methuen, 1985), 206-27, an extended version of which appears as "History and Ideology, Masculinity and Miscegenation" in Sinfield's recent book Faultlines: Cultural Materialism and the Politics of Dissident Reading (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1992), 109-42. Further references to Dollimore and Sinfield will be to the Faultlines version. Carolyn Porter's essay "Are We Being Historical Yet?" (South Atlantic Quarterly 87 : 743-86) is typical in its treatment of "Invisible Bullets" as paradigmatic of New Historicist theories of hegemonic political and literary forces; see also
2 In his edition of Henry V (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982) Gary Taylor, in contrast, defends the Salic law speech as not all that obscure to an Elizabethan audience, which would have been far more familiar with its historical references: "The speech's reputation for tedium has become such a critical commonplace that reports of its obscurity have been greatly exaggerated" (35). Phyllis Rackin is among the few critics who do not simply pass over this speech; in Stages of History: Shakespeare's English Chronicles (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1990), she argues that this recitation of genealogy, like Henry's winning of the French princess in act 5, signifies "the appropriation of the indispensable female ground of patriarchal authority" (168). It will become clear below that I both agree and disagree with Rackin's point: I contend that Henry wishes to appropriate feminine authority without associating himself with what is feminine about it. My argument in this regard parallels that of Dollimore and Sinfield (note 1), who in the Faultlines version of their essay "History and Ideology" describe the Salic-law speech as part of Henry V's fractured ideological attempts to banish the female and the feminine (127-42).
3 Leah Marcus, Puzzling Shakespeare (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1988), 51-105.
4 Taylor (note 2), 7. For the dating of the play, see J. H. Walter's New Arden edition (London: Methuen, 1954), xi-xiv, and Taylor, 3-7. (All citations from Henry V in this essay are taken from Walter's edition; further references to act, scene, and line will appear parenthetically in the text.) To summarize critical commentary on the dating of this allusion, I refer to Joel Altaian's concise note in his essay "'Vile Participation': The Amplification of Violence in the Theater of Henry V, " Shakespeare Quarterly 42 (1991): 2, n.5: "The Essex allusion in the fifth chorus, which places the performance of the Folio version between 27 March and 28 September 1599, is no longer seriously disputed; see however, Warren D. Smith, "The Henry V Choruses in the First Folio,' Journal of English and Germanic Philology 53 (1954), 38-57, for the view that it refers to Essex's successor [Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy]."
5 R. Doleman (pseudonym for Robert Parsons [or Persons]), A Conference about the next succession to the crowne of Ingland ("N" [Antwerp? St. Omer, France?], 1594; rpt. Menston, Yorkshire: Scolar Press, 1972), A3r. J. E. Neale describes Parsons's work as "an important and disturbing book, repudiating the doctrine of divine hereditary right, placing election alongside birth as a way to the succession, and by implication arguing that Parliament could take away the King of Scots' right to the English throne" (Elizabeth and Her Parliaments, 1584-1601 [New York: St. Martin's Press, 1957], 262). It is hardly likely that Essex solicited Parson's dedication; nevertheless, its comment on Essex's involvement in the succession question is telling. For James's late-Elizabethan correspondence and intrigues with Essex and Cecil, see David Harris Willson, King James VI and I (New York: Henry Holt, 1956), 149-57. Essex in fact intended one of the results of his rebellion to be Parliament's recognition of James as Elizabeth's successor. Cecil, whose influence prevailed upon James after Essex's arrest, rightly urged caution: if James would flatter Elizabeth rather than press her for a decision, he would be assured of the throne. See also
6 Even Thomas Wilson's fairly casual The State of England, Anno Dom. 1600 (Camden Miscellany 3d series, vol. 52, no. 1 [London: Camden Society, 1936], 1-43) begins by discussing the succession, mentioning Parsons, and then undertaking a refutation of Salic law: "The Lawe is that if a man decease without heyre male haveing many daughters, his lands shall be parted equally among them all, but in the succession of the Crowne the eldest shall inheritt all" (7).
7 Hurstfield (note 5), 370. Hurstfield cites Godfrey Goodman, The Court of King James I, ed. John Sherren Brewer, 2 vols. (London: R. Bentley, 1839), 1:97.
8Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, of the Reign of Elizabeth 1598-1601 (1869; rpt. Nendeln, Liechtenstein: Kraus, 1967), 136-37; cited in Carole Levin, "Queens and Claimants: Political Insecurity in Sixteenth-Century England," Gender, Ideology and Action: Historical Perspectives on Women's Public Lives, ed. Janet Sharistanian (New York: Greenwood Press, 1986), 59. Fraunces's felonious remark was prefaced in his seductive technique by the argument "that the best in England, i.e. the Queen, had done so, and had three bastards by noblemen of the Court" (136-37).
9 Hurstfield (note 5), 370.
10Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, of the Reign of Elizabeth, 1601-1603, (1870; rpt. Nendeln, Liechtenstein: Kraus, 1967), 115-16.
11 Henry Hooke, Of the succession to the Crowne of England, dated "Anno regni Elizabethae 43" (British Library Royal MS. 17 B XI, fols. 1-19). The manuscript includes a dedication to James I, apparently added after his accession to the English throne. Hooke evidently found favor with the new king, as attested to by the publication of his sermon "Jerusalem's peace" under the title Sermon preached before the King at White-hall, the eight of May. 1604 (London, 1604). The printed version of this sermon reiterates publicly what Hooke had, during Elizabeth's reign, been able to declare only privately: "[God] hath made broad signes, that all the world might see, especially his elect might hope, that what was not possible for a woman to effect, man should be both able and industrious to performe" (C4r). (I am grateful to Lindsay Kaplan for this second reference.)
12 In his virulent First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, for example, John Knox writes with horror that "women are lifted up to be heads over realms, and to rule above men at their pleasure and appetites" (The Political Writings of John Knox, ed. Marvin A. Breslow [Washington: Folger Books; London: Associated University Presses, 1985], 46). Christopher Goodman, Knox's equally fervent compatriot in Geneva, accuses Queen Mary Tudor's councillors of having no other goal but to seek "how to accomplishe and satisfie the ungodly lustes of their vngodly and unlawful Gouernesse" (How Superior Powers Oght to Be Obeyd of their Subjects: and wherein They May Lawfully by Gods Worde Be Disobeyd and Resisted [Geneva, 1558], Clv). For accounts and analyses of the 1550s debate over women's rule see especially Paula Scalingi, "The Scepter or the Distaff: The Question of Female Sovereignty, 1516-1607," Historian 41 (1978): 59-75; and Constance Jordan, "Woman's Rule in Sixteenth-Century British Political Thought," Renaissance Quarterly 40 (1987): 421-51.
13An admonition to the Nobility and People of England and Ireland Concerninge the Present Warres (Antwerp, 1588), B2r. For an invaluable compendium of 1570s and 1580s propaganda for and against Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots, see James E. Phillips, Images of a Queen: Mary Stuart in Sixteenth-Century Literature (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1964).
14 J. E. Neale, Queen Elizabeth I (1934; rpt. New York: Doubleday, 1960), 403. Neale is quoting an Elizabethan source that he does not identify.
15 John Harington, Nugae Antiquae, ed. Henry Harington, 2 vols. (London, 1769), 1:321.
16 Levin (note 8), 53-57.
17 For the existence and the presumed 1590s dates of these earlier plays, see Walter (note 4), xxxiii-xxxiv.
18 David Willbern, "Shakespeare's Nothing," in Representing Shakespeare, ed. Murray M. Schwartz and Coppélla Kahn (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1980), 255-56.
19 For the Aristotelian model of conception and its employment in Renaissance medical theory, see Thomas Laqueur, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1990), 25-113. Joel Altaian (note 4) also analyzes Henry V's Prologue as a sexualized exchange; though Altaian dwells on the Prologue's aspect of whorelike solicitation, he also mentions those "solicitings as invitations to violent appropriation," that is, rape, on the part of a presumably masculinized audience (20). Indeed, it seems difficult even to describe the Prologue's operations without entering into its sexualized phrase-world; Robert Weimann, for example, uses the Prologue to illustrate how an audience provides the stage spectacle with what he unself-consciously calls "performative thrust" ("Bifold Authority in Shakespeare's Theatre," Shakespeare Quarterly 39 : 413).
20 Dollimore and Sinfield (note 1), 129.
21Edward III opens with a Salic-law discussion that is very similar to Henry V's, with the notable difference that Edward Ill's mother Isabel is prominently named. In response to Edward's question about whether his "pedigree" grants him the succession to the French throne, Robert of Artois makes the matter crystal clear:
Edward. Who next succeeded Phillip of Bow?
Artois. Three sonnes of his, which all
Did sit vpon their fathers regali Throne:
Yet dyed and left no issue of their loynes.
Edward. But was my mother sister vnto those?
Artois. Shee was my Lord, and onely Issabel,
Was all the daughters that this Phillip had,
Whome afterward your father tooke to wife:
And from the fragrant garden of her wombe,
Your gratious selfe the flower of Europes
Deriued is inheritor to Fraunce.
(The Raigne of King Edward the Third: A Critical,
Old-Spelling Edition, ed. Fred Lapides [New York:
Garland, 1980], 86.)
22 Karl Wentersdorf similarly points out that Henry's descent from Isabella had been made clear in two earlier Elizabethan plays, The Famous Victories of Henry V as well as Edward III ("The Conspiracy of Silence in Henry V, " Shakespeare Quarterly 27 : 266, n. 5). Wentersdorf also explains how Shakespeare suppresses the part female descent played in Scroop's rebellion: Cambridge, one of the plotters, historically claimed the throne through his wife Anne Mortimer's descent from Edward Ill's third son. Anne Mortimer's and Cambridge's son was the Richard, duke of York who challenged Henry VI's rule (274-75). As Phyllis Rackin (note 2) reminds us, "The Yorkist claim … hovers at the edge of consciousness, lending a suppressed irony to Henry's reliance on female inheritance to justify his claims to France" (168).
23 For comments on the sexual rivalry between Henry and the Dauphin, see Peter Erickson, Patriarchal Structures in Shakespeare's Drama (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1985), 60-61; and Dollimore and Sinfield, (note 1), 132-33.
24 All quotations from 1 Henry VI are from the New Arden edition, ed. Andrew S. Cairncross (London: Methuen, 1962).
25 Taylor (note 2) rejects a modernization of "spirt" to "spurt," calling it misleading because it obscures the sense "sprout" (180, note to 3.5.8); but dismissing "spurt" similarly obscures the sense "to issue in a jet," a meaning available, according to the OED, in the 1580s (see OED spirt vi, 1 and 2a).
26 The Chorus asked rhetorically at the beginning of act 3, "For who is he, whose chin is but enrich'd / With one appearing hair, that will not follow / These cull'd and choice-drawn cavaliers to France?" (3.Chor.22-24).
27 See C. L. Barber and Richard Wheeler, The Whole Journey: Shakespeare's Power of Development (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1986), 219. Taylor (note 2) preserves the Quarto spelling cown, which better conveys the bilingual pun achieved through Alice's mispronunciation, gown-con. But count retains the suggestion of the obscene pun on feminized nationhood, cunt/cuntry, that was commonly used in diatribes against Elizabeth, Mary Queen of Scots, or the institution of queenship in general. In "The French Garden: An Introduction to Women's French," ELH 56 (1989): 19-51, a fascinating essay on Peter Erondell's 1605 French phrasebook, Juliet Fleming demonstrates how the entirety of the Princess's language lesson is "actually a lesson in talking dirty":
The first two words that she asks her teacher to translate, le pied and la robe, were used in England to mean respectively one who commits buggery (from pied, meaning variegated), and a female prostitute.… D'elbow sounds like dildo, neck and nick were synonyms for vulva, and sin was a euphemism for fornication. Finally, excellent had lewd connotations, and was especially associated with buggery, as was assez, understood to mean ass-y enough. (45)
28 Altman (note 4) connects the Princess's "litany of dismemberment" with the play's efforts to make King Henry's battle present to the audience, and hence to offer the audience the satisfaction of illusory participation in the battle, of not being "gentlemen in England now a-bed" (18-19).
29 "The truth is, that the poet's matter failed him in the fifth act, and he was glad to fill it up with whatever he could get; and not even Shakespeare can write well without a proper subject" (Selections from Johnson on Shakespeare, ed. Bertrand H. Bronson [New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1986], 205). For a history of the critical debate instigated by Johnson's remark, see Taylor (note 2), xxviii-xxix; and Marilyn Williamson, "The Courtship of Katherine and the Second Tetralogy," Criticism 17 (1975): 326-34.
30 For an account of the princess's scenes similar in many respects to mine, see Lance Wilcox, "Katherine of France as Victim and Bride," Shakespeare Studies 17 (1985): 61-76. Wilcox, however, makes an effort to prove that Henry's wooing of the princess is satisfyingly mutual: "Anything short of vigorously rejecting [Henry's] suggestions must inevitably be seen as avouching similar fantasies of her own" (71)—an assertion tantamount to blaming a rape victim for not screaming loud enough. And yet Wilcox's views seem to be shared by modern directors of Henry V, all of whom (to my knowledge) have staged Henry's exchange with Katharine as mutually romantic. (Kenneth Branagh's 1989 film of Henry V is symptomatic; by casting his wife, Emma Thompson, as the princess, Branagh effectively forestalls any but a romantic conclusion to Henry's courtship.) Wilcox, moreover, is less enthusiastic about Henry's sexual conquest than many other critics are; see, for example, George L. Geckle's remark that the princess's "bawdy English lesson about 'de foot et de coun' … [proves] that she too is a normal young woman in her private life and worthy of England's finest" ("Politics and Sexuality in Shakespeare's Second Tetralogy," Romanticism and Culture: A Tribute to Morse Peckham and a Bibliography of His Works, ed. H. W. Matalene [Columbia, SC: Camden House, 1984], 134). In a complex, if somewhat elusive, consideration of theatrical and monarchical power in Henry V, Christopher Pye, in The Regal Phantasm: Shakespeare and the Politics of Spectacle (New York: Routledge, 1990), 29-33, suggests that Salic law itself generates the erotic energies by which Henry woos and claims the Princess. As a "female bar" (1.2.42) to male occupation of the throne—a bar that both does and does not impede Henry's progress—Salic law is embodied in the contradictions of Henry's erotic desire: the Princess must be wooed, but in Henry's and Burgundy's subsequent bawdy repartee (5.2.298-337), she seems always already to have surrendered.
31 Steven Mullaney, "Strange Things, Gross Terms, Curious Customs: The Rehearsal of Cultures in the Late Renaissance," Representations 3 (Summer 1983): 40-67, and Greenblatt (note 1), 48. For another analysis of the relation between Henry's language, kingship, and theater, see James L. Calderwood, "Henry V: English, Rhetoric, Theater," Metadrama in Shakespeare's Henriad: Richard II to Henry V (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1979), 162-81.
32 Several critics have noticed that Henry's tone and the Chorus's are similar. Michael Goldman remarks, for example, that the king rousing his troops sounds very like the Chorus "rousing the audience to cooperation and excitement" (Shakespeare and the Energies of Drama [Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1972], 61). See also The difference between Henry and the Chorus is, of course, that Henry never displays any doubt that his troops will arise.
33 Pye (note 30), 19.
34 See Marjorie Garber, "Descanting on Deformity: Richard III and the Shape of History," Shakespeare's Ghost Writers: Literature as Uncanny Causality (New York: Methuen, 1987), 28-51. In another essay, Garber notes the two tetralogies' reversal, remarking that "in [Henry V's] epilogue the audience is invited, not to imagine, but to remember—and specifically to remember Shakespeare's Henry VI plays … as well as the historical events contained in them" ("What's Past Is Prologue': Temporality and Prophecy in Shakespeare's History Plays," Renaissance Genres: Essays on Theory, History, and Interpretation, ed. Barbara Kiefer Lewalski [Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1986], 324).
35 Altaian (note 4), 29.
36 Dollimore and Sinfield (note 1), 140.
37 Edward I. Berry sees this historical disruption of epic as the play's primary mode: see "'True Things and Mock'ries': Epic and History in Henry V," Journal of English and Germanic Philology 78 (1979): 1-16. For further commentary on how Henry V both sustains and deflates a Tudor fantasy of absolute state power, see also
38 Raphael Holinshed, The Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, 3 vols. (London, 1587), 3:615.
39 See the tirades published in the wake of Mary Queen of Scots's 1587 execution, cited in Phillips (note 13), 171-97.
40 Walter B. Devereux, Lives and Letters of the Devereux, Earls of Essex in the Reigns of Elizabeth, James I, and Charles I, 2 vols. (London: J. Murray, 1853), 2:131; quoted in R. B. Wernham, The Making of Elizabethan Foreign Policy, 1558-1603 (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1980), 93.
41 For the fullest account of this anxiety, see Jyotsna Singh, "Renaissance Antitheatricality, Antifeminism, and Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, " Renaissance Drama 20 (1989): 99-121; see also
42Pierce Peniless, his supplication to the divell, in The Works of Thomas Nashe, ed. Ronald B. McKerrow, rev. ed. F. P. Wilson, 5 vols. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1958), 2:212.
43 To assert that Henry V only shores up Elizabethan monarchical authority, then, is to disregard the monarch's gender. Leonard Tennenhouse, for example, argues that Shakespeare's history plays maintain the unity of the king's two bodies in the face of late-Elizabethan anxiety over the queen's decaying corporeal body; see Power on Display: The Politics of Shakespeare's Genres (New York: Methuen, 1986), 76-88. But only if Tennen-house does not identify that queenly body as female can he continue to associate Elizabeth with Henry V rather than with the feminine selves that Henry consistently either repudiates or identifies as entirely other, absolutely not English. In Rewriting Shakespeare, Rewriting Ourselves (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1991), near the beginning of his interesting analysis of how All's Well That Ends Well's accommodation of female authority remains uncomfortable and disturbing, Peter Erickson briefly suggests the formulation of authority in Henry V that I am proposing:
Henry V … is both chivalric warrior and monarch, and his dual role displaces Elizabeth as a specifically female ruler. This effect is confirmed by the way subsequent dramatic events assert male domination in Henry V's high-handed appropriation of Katherine: Henry V in the most decisive manner reverses Essex's subordinate position. (60)
44 Norman Rabkin, "Either/Or: Responding to Henry V, " Shakespeare and the Problem of Meaning (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1981), 33-62.
Source: "Nostalgia and the Not Yet Late Queen: Refusing Female Rule in Henry V," in ELH, Vol. 61, No. 3, Fall, 1994, pp. 523-50.