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3. Pray thee, corporal:-It appears (II. i. 2) that Bardolph has been lifted up from a corporal into a lieutenant since our acquaintance with him in Henry IV., and that Nym has succeeded him in the former rank. It is not quite certain whether the Poet forgot the fact here, or whether Nym, being used to call him corporal, in his fright loses his new title.
[King Henry.] Knight says that “skilfully as he has managed it, and magnificent as the whole drama is as a great national song of triumph, there can be no doubt that Shakespeare felt that in this play he was dealing with a theme too narrow for his peculiar powers
the subject being altogether one of lyric gran. deur. .. And yet, how exquisitely has Shakespeare thrown his dramatic power into this undramatic subject! The character of the King is one of the most finished portraits that has proceeded from his master hand. .. It was for him to embody in the person of Henry V. the principle of national heroism; it was for him to call forth the spirit of patriotic reminiscence.”
[Enter Katharine and Alice.] Touching this Scene various grounds have been taken, some pronouncing it ridiculous, others rejecting it as an interpolation, and others wondering that Katharine and Alice should be made to speak French, when the other French characters talk English. We cannot well see why anything better should be asked than Johnson's remarks on the subject: “The grimaces of the two Frenchwomen, and the odd accent with which they uttered the English, might divert an audience more refined than could be found in the Poet's time. There is in it not only the French language, but the French spirit. Alice compliments the princess upon the knowledge of four words, and tells her that she pronounces like the English themselves. The princess suspects no deficiency in her instructress, nor the instructress in herself. The extraordinary circumstance of introducing a character speaking French in an English drama was no novelty to our early stage.”
33. lavoltas corantos :-The lavolta was a dance of Italian origin, and seems to have been something like the modern waltz, only, perhaps, rather more so. It is thus described by Sir John Davies in his Orchestra :
“A lofty jumping, or a leaping round,
Where arm in arm two dancers are entwin'd,
Whose first two feet are short, and third is long."
“ What shall I name those current traverses,
3, 4. I assure you ... bridge :-After Henry had passed the Somme, the French endeavoured to intercept him in his passage to Calais; and for that purpose attempted to break down the only bridge that there was over the small river of Ternois. But Henry had notice of their design, and sent a part of his troops before him, who, attacking and putting the French to flight, preserved the bridge till the whole English army arrived and passed over it.
42. For he hath stolen a pax :-Holinshed makes the following statement respecting the discipline kept up in this expedition : “The poore people of the countrie were not spoiled, nor anie thing taken of them without paiment, nor anie outrage or offense doone by the Englishmen, except one, which was, that a souldier tooke a pix out of a church, for which he was apprehended, and the King not once remooved till the box was restored, and the offendor strangled.” Of course the Poet drew from this passage, changing pix to pax, and assigning the theft to Bardolph. 147-174. Thou dost thy office, etc.:—The Poet here follows very
close upon the chronicler: "And so Montjoy king at armes was sent to the King of England, to defie him as the enemie of France, and to tell him that he should shortlie have battell. King Henrie answered, ‘Mine intent is to doo as it pleaseth God: I will not seeke your master at this time; but if he or his seeke me, I will meet with them, God willing. If anie of your nation attempt once to stop me in my journie now towards Calis, at their jeopardie be it; and yet I wish not anie of you so unadvised, as to be the occasion that I die your tawnie ground with your red bloud !' When he had thus answered the herald, he gave him a princelie reward, and licence to depart.” It was customary thus to reward heralds, whatever might be the nature of their message.
15. Pegasus :—The famous flying horse in old Greek tales. Bellerophon used it to aid him in killing the chimera, a firebreathing monster, which, according to the myth, he slew by shooting arrows at it as he rode through the air on the horse.
22. Perseus:-Another hero of the Greek tales, who, as the story has it, slew the terrible Gorgon Medusa, and also saved the life of the maid Andromeda, when she had been left chained to a rock, to be the prey of a sea-monster.
[Chorus.] Only one other drama entirely Shakespeare's—The Winter's Tale-contains a chorus; and there it serves to announce an interval of dramatic time far greater than the Poet has anywhere else approached. Except in this Act, the Chorus in Henry V. announces only intervals of space or time—as a journey from London to Southampton, from Southampton to Harfleur-and other incidental matters. But the Chorus to Act IV. has no such rôle to perform; and this Chorus, splendid and high-wrought, serves to show that Shakespeare introduced this machinery, not for the sake of bridging intervals of time and space-which elsewhere his audience unconcernedly crossed “with imagined wing' -but as the most obvious means of bringing home the outward semblance of an event of absorbing interest. In Coriolanus, in Antony and Cleopatra, there are brief bursts of battle-poetry exceeding in sublimity anything in Henry V.; but that is chiefly because they are penetrated with a dramatic passion for which in Henry V. there was simply no room. The subject was epic, and Shakespeare fell back upon the epic poet's method. No scene in the drama paints so vividly as a few lines in this Chorus the transforming spell of the master presence, which made the handful of worn-out men a weapon of adamant against the serried ranks of chivalry.
13. closing rivets up :—This does not solely refer to the riveting the plate armour before it was put on, but also to a part when it was on. The top of the cuirass had a little projecting bit of iron that passed through a hole pierced through the bottom of the casque. When both were put on, the smith or armourer presented himself, with his riveting hammer, to close the rivets up; so that the wearer's head should remain steady, notwithstanding the force of any blow that might be given on the cuirass or helmet.
19. play at dice :— The Poet took this from Holinshed: “The Frenchmen in the meane while, as though they had beene sure of victorie, made great triumph; for the capteins had determined how to divide the spoile, and the soldiers the night before had plaid the Englishmen at dice.”
[King Henry.] Kenny, in treating upon the view which Shakespeare's portrait of Henry V. gives us of the Poet's own character, says: Some of the continental critics think they can see that not only was Henry V. Shakespeare's favourite hero, but that this is the character, in all the Poet's dramas, which he himself most nearly resembled. Many people will, perhaps, hardly be able to refrain from a smile on hearing of this conjecture. We certainly cannot see the slightest ground for its adoption. The whole history of Shakespeare's life, and the whole cast of Shakespeare's genius, are opposed to this extravagant supposition. We have no doubt that the Poet readily sympathized with the frank and gallant bearing of the King. But we find no indication in all that we know of his temperament, or of the impression which he produced upon his contemporaries, of that firm, rigid, self-concentrated personality which distinguishes the born masters of mankind. Henry V. was necessarily peremptory, designing, unwavering, energetic, and self-willed; Shakespeare was flexible, changeful, meditative,
sceptical, and self-distrustful. This was clearly the temperament of the author of the sonnets; it was too, we believe, not less clearly the character of the wonderful observer and delineator of all the phases of both tragic and comic passion, and it was, perhaps, in no small degree, through the very variety of his emotional and imaginative sensibility, and the very absence of that con teness and steadfastness of nature which his injudicious admirers now claim for him, that he was enabled to become the great dramatic poet of the world.”
239 et seq. Johnson finds something very striking and solemn in this soliloquy of King Henry, beginning as soon as he is left alone. Something like this,” says Johnson, every breast has felt. Reflection and seriousness rush upon the mind upon the separation of gay company, and especially after forced and unwilling merriment."
[The French camp.] The one formidable rival of the King is no single figure, but the “bad neighbour" at whom he dashes his little force, the assembled power of France. And the French are drawn collectively, in slightly modulated shades of the same conventional hue. The brush which had painted the rival of Henry's youth now dashes off with far less care and delicacy the foes of his manhood. The vapouring chivalry, the fantastic self-conceit which so fatally alloyed Hotspur's sturdy Saxon strength, reappear with more of blatant flourish in men of finer wit but weaker fibre.
16. yon poor and starved band :-Holinshed gives the following account of the march from Harfleur to Agincourt: “The Englishmen were brought into some distresse in this journie, by reason of their vittels in maner spent, and no hope to get more; for the enemies had destroied all the corne before they came. Rest could they none take, for their enemies with alarmes did ever so infest them: dailie it rained, nightlie it freezed: of fuell there was great scarsitie, of fluxes plentie: monie inough, but wares for their releefe to bestowe it on had they none.”
60, 61. I stay but for my guidon, etc. :—Thus in Holinshed: “ They thought themselves so sure of victorie, that diverse of the noblemen made such hast toward the battell, that they left manie of their servants and men of warre behind them, and some of them would not once staie for their standards; as amongso other