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Henry V as Working-House of Ideology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2007

Stanley Wells
Affiliation:
University of Birmingham
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Summary

Among the features specific to the text of Henry V its apparent property of giving rise to particularly acrimonious division of opinion has often been noted. To say that there are two camps sharply opposing each other is indeed almost a commonplace of critical literature, the one camp fervently applauding what they see as a panegyric upon, indeed a rousing celebration of, ‘the mirror of all Christian Kings’ and most successful English monarch of all the histories; and the followers of the other camp deriding with no less conviction the exaltation of a machiavellian conqueror in a rapacious and, after all, senseless war. Little wonder, then, that in 1939 Mark Van Doren should have thought even Shakespeare’s genius baffled vis-à-vis such hopeless material; that E. M. W. Tillyard should have considered Henry V, remarkably enough at the time of the Second World War, a dramatic failure on account of its puerile patriotism and lack of form; or that Moody E. Prior should consider the play ‘a theatrically handsome fulfillment of an obligation, performed with skill but without deep conviction’.

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Shakespeare Survey , pp. 63 - 68
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1988

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