Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2014
As the play with which to open the Globe season in the summer of the Queen's Jubilee and the London Olympic Games, Henry V, generally perceived as Shakespeare's most nationalistic play, might seem an ideal choice. As Alice Jones wrote in the Independent, ‘it's not hard to see why the play, centred on the English triumph over the French at Agincourt, with its patriotism, “band of brothers” underdog spirit and even a romance with a beautiful Princess Catherine has captured the imagination in 2012’, a year which also saw prominent productions of the play on BBC television (directed by Thea Sharrock) and on stage by Edward Hall's all-male company, Propeller. As the play with which to close the Globe to Globe Festival – a celebration of Shakespeare performed by different cultures and in different languages – the choice seemed slightly more suspect. The play presents its non-English characters as culturally and linguistically inferior, and Dominic Dromgoole's production did little to play down this mockery, with an idiotic, if charming, Fluellen and an incomprehensible Scottish Captain Jamy, while the English pronunciation of Alice in particular was hyperbolically absurd, clearly designed to elicit laughter from the audience.
So why did Dromgoole choose this play at this particular time? The answer to the question is by no means straightforward, and, indeed, neither was Dromgoole's take on the play, which swung between the poles of nationalism and scepticism.
- Shakespeare beyond EnglishA Global Experiment, pp. 301 - 312Publisher: Cambridge University PressPrint publication year: 2013