The French ought to pass clean on Shakespeare over Agincourt

The French ought to pass clean on Shakespeare over Agincourt

Isee Shakespeare’s been at it again. This time he’s helped to get us in trouble with the French, the very dernière selected we want proper now. However we must hope that Brigitte Macron, who remaining week opened the newly remodeled Centre for Medieval records in Agincourt (yes! The French still refurbish museums!), can have mercy on us. Greater, at the least, than Shakespeare’s Henry V, who close up the gates of mercy so that “the flesh’d soldier, rough and difficult of heart / In liberty of bloody hand shall variety / With judgment of right and wrong extensive as hell, mowing like grass / Your clean-truthful virgins and your flowering infants”. And that was before he even went into warfare.

extra French numbers. In fact, they argue, there has been much less of a chasm in manpower than formerly concept, and surely not the five-to-one in every of fantasy; nor were Henry’s archers drawn from pretty the impoverished ranks of society that has been cautioned. The director of Agincourt’s museum, Christophe Gilliot, hopes that the renovated museum will inspire us to reject the cliches, and thereby bring in a brand new era of Franco-British cooperation and expertise.

A laudable and timely ambition, of path. But before we rush to brand Shakespeare an arrow-glad propagandist, allow’s do this maximum unpopular of things and read below the headlines. Plenty of our belief of the play has, as we recognize, been formed with the aid of Laurence Olivier’s portrayal of the king within the 1944 film version, released at a time whilst patriotism had a actual and urgent cause.

And yet, while we recall Shakespeare’s “happy few” and his “band of brothers”, we forget about other more equivocal passages of the play, and specially its fourth act, while Henry, in disguise, walks through the English camp, as its squaddies “sit patiently and inly ruminate/ The morning’s risk, and their gesture sad/ making an investment lank-lean cheeks and struggle-worn coats/ Presenteth them unto the gazing moon/ so many horrid ghosts.” Is it proper, asks the Welsh soldier Fluellen, that if their enemy is “an ass and a fool and One ought to argue that each one this is swept away by the bombast of victory. But though the play may additionally end with glory – and the purchase of a wife – the relationship between the English and the French did not end there, as indeed the chorus’s final phrases, looking ahead to Henry VI and his advisers’ bloody losses, make clean.

In quick: don’t blame the Bard. Alternatively, mirror on the capability of literature and art to offer history no longer with the aid of soundbite but in layers of which means and interpretation. Which brings us to the subsequent reincarnation of Henry V, drawing close courtesy of Netflix and Timothée Chalamet. If the trailer is whatever to move through, there is to be a super deal of brooding on the nature of strength and responsibility. Will it portray the events of St Crispin’s Day in a extra historically accurate style? We’ll see. However whether or not you get your restore of Lancastrian monarchs from the pages of the Arden Shakespeare or the telly, recall no longer to take it all at face price.


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