Saturday, February 28, 2009

Much Ado About Nothing - Preliminary Thoughts About Malcontents

Ernst writes:

While thinking a bit about Much Ado About Nothing, I stumbled across an excellent book by a brilliant author I happen to have in my possession, called The Malcontent Strain. It discusses the history of the "malcontent type" from its beginnings in the poetic, novelistic and dramatic "romances" of the '70s and '80s to the full-blown and heavily-used "malcontent" of English Renaissance drama from the mid-'90s to 1604 or so, and on to a number of variants and imitations in early Jacobean drama up to 1612 or so (in John Webster's great tragedies).

The "malcontent type" is useful in satire (which is part of his function the the above-mentioned "romances") and seems to have been a kind of popular way for students and young people to carry themselves in the late '90s―dressed in black, with clothes in disarray, arms folded, and cynical remarks always at hand―something like the "Goths" of recent appearance among young people in our day.

The late '90s were not a good time for England―sliding down the back side of the glories of Elizabeth's reign and the defeat of the Armada. There was a series of very bad harvests; the Queen was aging, and nobody was sure who would follow her; students and younger sons were restless and anxious about not being able to rise up into the already well-populated Elizabethan establishment. There was cynicism and discouragement to burn.

Put simply, when Hamlet crosses ("encumbers") his arms and asks his friends not to wink or whisper together when they see him doing so, the audience recognizes that he is putting on the disguise of a "malcontent"―a melancholy-filled student/son who might well be just a little bit deranged (and dangerous).

Don John, as the accompanying brief chapter from the aforementioned book argues, is an early version of a brooding, dark-minded melancholic of this sort:


Don John, the malcontent villain in Much Ado About Nothing (c. 1598) is enigmatic primarily because he seems so little developed for a character whose villainy is so central to the plot. He appears, as Anne Barton notes,
a malcontent pure and simple, a man who might say with the cold duke in Thurber's story "The Thirteen Clocks": "We all have faults, and mine is doing wickedness." Certainly, Shakespeare makes no attempt to provide him with even the kind of fairy-tale motivation that Oliver has for practicing against the life of his younger brother in As You Like It.
Geoffrey Bullough suggests that Shakespeare may have created Don John partly out of an awareness that
‘natural’ villainy was becoming more desirable, more popular-in the second lustrum of the nineties, with its malcontents and men of strange humours … Perhaps the success of Shylock made Shakespeare add chiaroscuro to his comedy. So he invented Don John, ‘bastard brother to Don Pedro', 'a plain-dealing villain' and a Malcontent of the kind just emerging in satire and the theatre.
Bullough may be right, although if Much Ado was written in 1598, Don John had few, if any dramatic antecedents much like himself. A large part of the matter, it seems to me, is that Shakespeare was interested in other things. He was more concerned with evil's effects on the other characters in the play than he was with the source of evil itself. Don John is simply a shorthand version of a character like Shylock or Gloucester—evil-doers whose motivations more nearly caught Shakespeare’s interest.

Curious, however, is Don John’s relation to Benedick. Both pride themselves on a sort of frank cynicism; both have a penchant for melancholy; both relish manipulating others through the use of words, and both are stubbornly unconventional. Beatrice seems to sense the similarity:
He were an excellent man that were made just in the midway between him [Don John] and Benedick. (II.i.6-7)
Indeed, Benedick, for all the traits that make us see him sympathetically. must briefly take the role of villain upon himself ("Kill Claudio" [iv.i.291) before his final acceptance into the integrated social order at the end of the play. Were Messina Denmark and Beatrice's words the commands of a father's restive ghost, Benedick might well be driven into becoming more like Don John than Beatrice would care to deal with.

In another respect, Much Ado anticipates the satirical world and the foul-mouthed malcontent railers of the soon-to-be-reopened coterie theatres. As Robert Kimbrough has noted, Claudio's denunciation of Hero is cast in the ugly, caustic language of writers like Marston, Jonson, Dekker or Webster at their most extreme:
Give not this rotten orange to your friend.
• • •
She knows the heat of a luxurious bed;
• • •
But you are more intemperate in your blood
Than Venus, or those pamp'red animals
That rage in savage sensuality. (IV.i.33, 42, 60-62)
Antonio, an old man neither as young as Claudio nor, indeed, a member of his “elite” class, thinks he recognizes Claudio's type in his language:
Scambling, outfacing, fashionmongering boys,
That lie and cog and flout, deprave and slander,
Go anticly, and show outward hideousness,
And speak off half a dozen dang'rous words,
How they might hurt their enemies if they durst. (V.i.9~98)
It is in many ways gallants like Claudio who served Marston, Chapman and Jonson both as audiences and as subjects for satire. It is partly from such men that the coterie theatre malcontents learned to speak.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Two Gentlemen of Verona - Performance Log (January 2009)

Two Gentlemen of Verona
Directed by Joe Dowling
Guthrie Theater
Minneapolis, MN
Jan. 25, 2009

When we discussed Two Gentlemen of Verona two years ago, I was intrigued by its unsatisfactory ending. Going to Joe Dowling's production of Two Gentlemen of Verona at the Guthrie I looked forward to seeing what he would do to make it seem less awkward. Dowling's approach to Act 5 in Merchant of Venice two years ago was one of the most satisfactory I've ever seen, although I complained at the time that its genius was not matched by an equally gratifying Act 4. Last year, Dowling's A Midsummer Night's Dream concluded with a wow-ing Pyramus and Thisbe. And whereas the Merchant succeeded with deft line readings and staging choices, the Midsummer excelled on the sheer chutzpah of some comic acting. Either way, it's clear Dowling cares about leaving an audience feeling like they've gotten their money's worth, believes the audience will make that judgment based on how entertained they feel they've been, and has been pretty successful enhancing Shakespearean comedies to that end. So, what to do with Two Gentlemen and its abrupt Act 5 conversions?

1. The medium is the message!

Not so fast. First, we'll want to examine the framing device Dowling provides for the play. This Two Gentlemen of Verona takes place as a 1950s live TV broadcast. And the Guthrie audience is the TV studio audience. Before the play and during intermission, we hear 1950s ad jingles for Kent cigarettes, Rice Krispies, Muriel cigars, and Maypo and theme songs from such late '50s shows as "Maverick," "I Love Lucy," "Robin Hood," "The Honeymooners," "Have Gun, Will Travel," "FBI," and "Mighty Mouse." We see big boxy cameras. We see tech people milling around. We see the perspective scale marked out on the gray studio floor so the cameramen can have a guide for pulling focus. We see two large television screens on either side of the stage showing the flat video-like gray images of the play being performed in front of us.

The characters in the play are also placed in the 1950s. Proteus (Jonas Goslow) and Valentine (Sam Bardwell), in jackets and narrow ties, are graduating from high school. Julia (Sun Mee Chomet) is having slumber parties. Silvia's dad is a businessman in Milan. The outlaws look like a biker gang escaped from a Gidget movie. And in the transitions from scene to scene Dowling inserts live musical performances, either actual or reminiscent of early rock and roll standards. Shakespeare might have been surprised to look down the cast list and see a character called "The Singer" (played by Sasha Andreev). He would have been even more surprised when he found that the singer sounded at times like Frank Sinatra and at others like Elvis Presley instead of Thomas Morley.

A modernized production always begs the reciprocal question of commentary, Shakespeare on setting and setting on Shakespeare. These are not the real 1950s that Dowling gives us, but the glossy magazine version of low-brow culture. That's interesting. Shakespeare is considered pretty high class now, and people pay a pretty penny to watch his stuff at the Guthrie, but synching this play up with the pop culture of rock and television and advertising, the dominant imagery of Dowling's vision, suggests that Shakespeare's play is equivalent pap. These particular cultural elements tend to exaggerate and or even caricature emotions, emphasizing and evoking desires, fears, passions, but they do so in a way that distorts beyond the expectations of comic commentary.

Take a song like Jeff Barry and Ben Raleigh's "Tell Laura I Love Her" (the genre of which is adapted into a theme for Julia by The Singer), a teen tragedy piece so over the top its hard not to laugh at it now: "No one knows what happened that day, / Or how his car overturned in flames." Listening to this sort of song, one doesn't focus on the ugliness of the accident or the senselessness of it or the stupidity involved. Instead the song encourages us to crave the situation in which Tommy's dying words, "tell Laura I love her," can have their greatest significance. To have something like this as Julia's theme suggests shallowness, the melodramatic yearnings of a young girl in love with love made immortal by gruesome catastrophe. Yet, ironically, it is Julia who stays stodgily devoted to Proteus, pursues him to Milan, and forgives him his trespasses. Her theme may imply simple devotion, but really it's trading in hormonal insanity.

Television does something similar. Take Paladin (Richard Boone) in "Have Gun, Will Travel" (the theme of which briefly entertains us as we wait for the play to begin), a gunfighter for hire who prefers to settle problems without resorting to violence. Yet somehow by the end of most episodes he's deftly dispatching bad guys with his gun. Television, at least in the '50s, '60s, and '70s, does not encourage you to examine the ironies of its narrative. In fact, complexities of character, motivation, and reality are frequently avoided so completely that one usually ends up rooting for a violent comeuppance at the end of the show, blissfully setting aside the contradictions in character implied or precedents that would be unacceptable in actual life. (The latter can often be casually swept away by referring to the lawlessness inherent in the myth of the American west. This same formula resurfaced most blatantly in the 1970s' show "Kung Fu," which featured David Carradine as a pacifist Shaolin Monk traveling in the old west who, despite his commitment to non-violence, employed debilitating martial arts by the end of each episode.)

Many of the TV shows whose themes Dowling employs are about justice or love, yet over and over again TV shows deny their own themes. In "The Honeymooners," Ralph Kramden lies to Alice, they make up (love and justice), but he does it again the next week; that's the inherent shallowness of early TV ― principles are forsaken for marketable climax, lessons learned one week are unlearned by the next.

And ads. Gosh. Every ad is a lie, designed to make us discount our natural skepticism and judiciousness and crave a product that may have no real relevance to our lives. Ads create deficits where they don't exist, offering to fill them, and values that are not valuable, suggesting our failure to live up to them makes us less happy. (Underarm wetness getting you down? Use this product which will clog up your pores ― your body's natural cooling system ― so that you can conform to our artificial standard of cleanliness!) Ads promote the ultimate in shallowness: reaction divorced from rational thought. In addition to the ad jingles, Dowling hangs a large billboard advertisement over a backstage area (it never plays a role in the production) like the eyes of T. J. Eckleberg in The Great Gatsby. It's there to remind us of the world in which Proteus, Valentine, Silvia, and Julia exist is one in which this shallowness has taken cultural root.

Or perhaps it's just an ambiance, the sole purpose to set the play in a particular time rather than connect the play's themes and characters to that time. I believe that if one stops to think for even a second, one moves from the latter to the former, from ambiance to commentary. So what does it do to Shakespeare's comedy to make this medium (television), this music (rock and roll), and the persistent reminder of art in the service of commerce (advertising) the conduit through which we explore themes of love, friendship, betrayal, and justice? Dowling's production suggests that Shakespeare's comedy is also a pop cultural moment, replete with the attendant shallownesses.

2. Live! From Culver City! It's Shakespeare Live!

This idea ― Two Gentlemen of Verona as pop culture ― is emphasized by the production's conceit. We're not watching a production of Two Gents; we're watching a live TV broadcast of a production of Two Gents. Why? Initially, I thought Dowling was simply drawing a parallel between a moment of early media in America and a moment of early comedy in Shakespeare's oeuvre ― both exhibit a kind of unrefined roughness and, despite the inherent complexities of both media, a kind of innocence.

The adaptive approach, however, takes us further. If early television enforces pat resolutions at the end of a pre-determined time frame regardless of the problems that need to be resolved, does that not account for the unfortunate brevity of resolution in Act 5? Proteus, in the act of raping Silvia, is stopped, apologizes, and is forgiven, with time left over for a word from our sponsor. The nature of televised narrative might also explain shallow friendship. Proteus throws over his sworn friend Valentine twice, once when he begins to pursue Valentine's love and once when he betrays Valentine to Silvia's father, but is quickly returned to his status as friend in the play's final moments, not so unusual in TV land where friendships (and love affairs!) between a protagonist and a guest star are forged, broken, and resurrected (and then subsequently non-existent) all in the space of 30 or 60 minutes.

In fact, if we accept the implications of Dowling's staging one might ask if Two Gentlemen of Verona makes a better television show than stage production? One of the most interesting experiences of this production is the dual experience of watching the play as both at the same time. Gil and I have written about the differences ― imaginative space vs. realistic space; audience-selected point of view vs. director-selected point of view; etc. ― between the two, and it's something of a mind-bender to get to do both at once. I frequently caught myself looking from the three-dimensional full-color action in front of me to the two-dimensional gray action depicted to one side, and usually I was doing it in order to see the action from a different perspective. One of the cameras was positioned at the back, showing an angle I would not otherwise have been able to see. There was something altogether Cubist about the experience.

The comparison, in the end, is about visuals. And except for the tremendous implications of television as a medium, put into play by five decades of experience and criticism, I don't think the visual rendering of Two Gentlemen as television added much to the immediate experience, largely because the device did not affect the language of the play. We are provided with two ways of seeing, but only one of hearing, which emanates exclusively from the stage, relegating the video screens to curiosities.

On the flip side, this idea of a live televised Shakespeare event reminds us of the great promise television once had, when a comic like Ernie Kovacs ad-libbed and invented his way through the transition from vaudeville to cathode ray tube, when Edward R. Murrow fought to use the new medium to increase our understanding of the world rather than cloud it, when Rod Serling found the perfect venue for establishing epigrammatic science fiction and fantasy storytelling. And Dowling's production reminds us of Paul Nickell's "Studio One" production of Coriolanus (1951) or the "Hallmark Hall of Fame" production of Macbeth (1954), anthology shows that sought to bring quality drama to people's living rooms. It also, I think, alludes to the Bill Colleran attempt to transport the live theater production of John Gielgud's Hamlet (starring Richard Burton) to a cinema audience by filming the show over two nights, then releasing it in 1964 for a limited engagement in movie houses.

Film itself was once a new medium, and in its silent period between 1899 and 1929, hundreds of films were made that drew on Shakespeare as a source. Kenneth Rothwell points out in his book, A History of Shakespeare on Screen, that Shakespeare accounted for less than one percent of the roughly 150,000 silent films made during the period, but it's still impressive that, given the primacy of language to what we imagine Shakespeare to be, silent filmmakers would have tapped those works at all. It may be that the purveyors of an infant medium sought to lend legitimacy to their work by turning to established art, specifically the greatest playwright ever. Nor is it surprising given early silent film's initial connection to the theater ― the first films depicted stories by directing a camera at a small stage area from a position approximately in the middle of what would have been the audience and letting it photograph the action unedited.

Early television displays some of the same concerns as early film, and shows that drew on established high art or relied on entertainment's theatrical ― vaudevillian ― antecedents remind us that a new medium's first attempts often include imitation. Dowling's production evokes this burgeoning moment in television history. A harried director herds actors, tries to get things set for taping, and counts down to the action both at the beginning of the play and after intermission. (The actor who does this is not listed as a character in the program.) There's a wonderful energy to this as a framing device, and I came away remembering how much I like watching vintage '50s TV both for its newness and its lack of established convention. I wonder if, when Shakespeare's work began to hit the stage the early 1590s, audiences felt the same way. I also wonder if it was Dowling's intention, in any way, to inspire the audience to remember a half-century old medium with fondness.

3. It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings!

I think this review is a little like a Dowling production (only less entertaining). Sixteen paragraphs later you're probably wondering, when are we going to get to the Shakespeare? When we look at all the stuff thrown at Shakespeare in this production, what we find is that an emphasis on audience supersedes the emphasis on Shakespeare. It's as if the operative question in the production is "what will leave the audience thinking they enjoyed this play?" rather than "what will make this a coherent text to a modern audience?" That's a subtle difference, but thinking back to Merchant of Venice, where Dowling seemed to play down the trial scene in favor of Portia and Bassanio's romance, to Midsummer Night's Dream with its high-production, Broadway-styled musical numbers, to this Two Gentlemen of Verona, the approach seems consistent.

So what? Purists complain that Shakespeare gets lost in all the hubbub. Elitists say it ain't really Shakespeare and that an audience swayed by it must be a buncha rubes. Others leave the theater thinking it was simply a lot of fun. What matters, I think, is its place in the cumulative effect. Every Shakespeare production we see adjusts our idea of what Shakespeare is, what belongs in a production, what makes good theater. Those of us who attend Shakespeare productions regularly wait for something competent that brings the texts we love to a full life, or something new that causes us to re-imagine the text in an unforeseen way, or something moving that connects us to the text in an indelible way. Dowling productions remind me how malleable Shakespeare can be, and whether one believes a show like Two Gentlemen of Verona does harm to Shakespeare or brings his work to an audience in a more accessible, highly entertaining way, what really matters is its modulation of the ongoing debate ― Shakespeare, language, culture, interpretation, comedy, what have you.

Well, I hear the fat lady singing. Somewhere a Joe Dowling production must be going on. I think I'll go watch TV.

Logged by Randall

Photos: (top) Valeri Mudek as Silvia, Randy Reyes as Speed, and Sam Bardwell as Valentine; (bottom) Jim Lichtscheidl as Lance and Wyatt Jensen as Crab, in Joe Dowling's Guthrie Theater production of Two Gentlemen of Verona. Photos by T. Charles Erickson.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Performance Log Manifesto


At the end of this, I'm going to owe Joe Dowling a bit of an apology, but not for what you expect. In my performance log on Dowling's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream last year, I indulged in a bit of snarkiness, the kind of criticism theater reviewers go in for when their sense of aesthetic is bruised. As a former theater critic, I feel pretty well versed in the formulae of major metro daily reviewing, and one reason I am no longer doing it is that I became pretty disillusioned by journalism's restrictive expectations as well as the quality of what I was putting into print. I continue to be disillusioned as I read theater reviews either because many critics seem to have no sense of aesthetic at all or because, if they do, they limit themselves to employing it toward banal observations and consumerist conclusions.

The "performance log" has been my attempt to resuscitate, at least personally, a dying form. (And if you don't think it's dying, compare the number of volumes of collected theater criticism published in the 1950s and '60s to what's being published now or the prose of those bygone critics to those we read today; Kenneth Tynan spins in his grave.) To do so, I have set a few modest goals.

1) Write from the point of view that there is no such thing as "good" or "bad" art.

Such qualifications remove the likelihood of thoughtful discourse, turning it instead to material arbitration and calling more attention to the critic than the art. Now, we've all seen stuff that didn't go well or which deeply moved us, and it's natural to reach quickly for qualitative extremes. However, I want, and have tried, to shift the emphasis to the consequences of artistic choices, emphasizing their impact over my judgment of them because judgment, I feel, tends to undermine the thoughtful exploration of ideas. Here's an example from a review of Alan J. Pakula's Pelican Brief by San Francisco Chronicle critic Mick LaSalle: Julia "Roberts has a hard time playing the intellectual: Whenever she has to explain anything of a thoughtful nature she sounds as though she memorized the dialogue phonetically" ("Pelican Not Brief Enough," Dec. 17, 1993).

Notice the structure of this pair of sentences ― judgment followed by example. By the way, the same day Scott Rosenberg reviewed the same film in the San Francisco Examiner: "Roberts … plays vulnerability convincingly enough. It doesn't help that [she] sounds ill at ease with legal argot. (Listen to the way she slurs a phrase like 'As yet I rule no one out.')" ("Case Against Pelican: Not Enough Thrills, Not Nearly Brief Enough," Dec. 17, 1993).

Same structure. Judgment followed by example. Having seen Pelican Brief I would agree with them, and it's worth noting that they agree with each other about the same specific acting issue (and their copy editors certainly agreed on the most appropriate headline). My question is where does the judgment get you if you really want to have a substantive discourse about the movie? (And I want to set aside the question of whether its worth having substantive discourses about non-substantive art. I think it is.) Once you say Roberts, in this movie, is a bad actress, what's left to talk about. For LaSalle and Rosenberg, both critics I liked a lot when I read them regularly, not much. Their reviews move on to take stock of other aspects of the movie.

Part of the problem is that the nature of major metro reviewing and its abrupt deadlines and limited copy space often preclude a "studied evaluation of an artistic effort" (Titchenor). And because more people read major metro reviewing of movies and theater than more thoughtful efforts (the popular press, after all) it becomes the baseline for both practice and expectations. So I want to get away from that.

I'm not the only critic who feels this way. Dominic Papatola wrote a smart column for the St. Paul Pioneer Press a few weeks ago arguing for ambivalent reactions to theater because "good criticism can and should steer a middle path: It should provide enough reporting to give a sense of what alchemic thing happened in the theater on a given night. It should impart sufficient context to help an audience understand why what happened matters ― if, in fact, it does. And it should present enough informed and leavened opinion to give readers the tools necessary to decide whether what occurred within those four walls is worthy of their time, their energy, and their money. … But criticism shouldn't be concerned with certainty" ("The thing about straddling the fence is, the grass is greener on both sides," Feb. 6, 2009).

I think Papatola gets himself into trouble when, after he acknowledges that "criticism should contribute to the dialogue and keep the conversation flowing" and decries "the Rush Limbaugh, my-way-or-the-highway brand, so certain in its perspective and so steamrolleresque in its delivery that the only possible responses to it are a sycophantic ditto or an angry, equally blustering counterpoint," he includes consumer advocacy as a goal of criticism. Is the conversation really advanced by claiming something is worth your time and money.

In my career as a theater critic, I only wanted to walk out of one production at intermission. I did not. (I was on assignment and needed to review it.) To this day, I talk about that production, not because I found it bad, but because I remember why it challenged my expectations of what should happen in the theater. When I bring it up with theater people, often a boisterous discussion ensues about directorial choices and working with actors. I often leave those conversations with a deeper appreciation for theater. Was the production I forced myself to sit through worth my time? Yes it was. In the consumer advocate mode, would I have said so in print? Probably not.

Yes, just because I sit through bad art and get a professional value from it doesn't mean I should force others to do so. But I'm not arguing that criticism should lack opinion. Our reactions to art are necessarily subjective. I just no longer want to write like I'm the final arbiter. I may have a lot of experience, but what discussion functions smoothly if one participant continually tells the others whether they're right or wrong.

2) To sidestep judgment, shift the focus from coverage to feature.

In journalism a coverage story focuses on the basic information associated with an event. In sports, it's who won the game, who contributed most to the win, a little context for key statistics, and usually a reverse chronological reporting of significant moments of the game. I think that theater criticism, in its most mundane form, achieves no more than coverage ― who the director is, a few directorial efforts, who the actors are, what kind of characters they establish, maybe the writer, maybe some design pieces like the set or costumes ― all framed by the critic's judgments of good, bad, or indifferent. This does no one ― artist, critic, or reader ― any good.

A good feature story contains "emotion and analysis" (Ricketson), but also character. It eschews the objectivity of news and many of the news values that limit news's relevance after a few days, like prominence, timeliness, proximity. Good features plumb depths, entertain, explore, enlighten. In the performance logs, I try to choose a few of the most interesting aspects of a production and explore their implications. I want to expand what I'm doing to include breaking the critic's barrier of authority and feel free to call up a director or an actor and question a choice. I want the license to notice something that may seem on the periphery of what's happening and focus on that: If Olivia sounds like Edith Bunker, what is the overall effect on our understanding of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night? If the guy playing Osric illuminates something in that character I never noticed before, why shouldn't we examine the role as much as we would Hamlet's?

For readers, this can be frustrating. There's a "yes, but is it any good" demand from people. Papatola notes in his column that after he wrote a "middle path" review of Hitchcock Blonde at the Jungle Theater, a reader e-mailed him "Is this good or bad? We should not bother to see this play?" This sort of response comes because readers have been conditioned for summary judgment rather than discourse. The irony is that if you engage in the conversation, readers will know whether the show is something they want to see or not. Whereas if Star Tribune critic Graydon Royce says a show is awesome and you go and don't enjoy yourself, then of course you're heading down a long path of non sequitors, usually beginning with "Graydon Royce is an idiot."

Another advantage of the feature approach is that it captures the truly memorable or the most worthily memorable. I sometimes go back and look at reviews I wrote under a more formulaic style. If I reviewed Hamlet, I made sure to comment on the actor playing Hamlet. But to be honest, sometimes even after reading the review that I wrote, I cannot remember the actor's specific contribution to the role. On the other hand, I will never forget the opening five minutes of Liviu Ciulei's A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Guthrie in 1985, a scene that involved Hippolyta and two Athenian guards. Even today I could write an entire article on Ciulei's work using that as my only example.

Memory, though, can be unreliable. In these performance logs I want to capture moments that matter and which, in the great hurlyburly of time and other theatrical experiences, might become unfairly unretainable. Those moments may be the kind that one normally reads about in a review, but they are just as likely not to be. Good discussions are organic, not pre-scripted. Also it's easier to build discourse if one selects moments that are really thought-provoking and ignores even major elements about which one has no strong reaction. I have found, so far, that pursuing these kinds of moments, I've been able, for the most part, to avoid some judgmental tone, dismissive rhetoric, and dead-end discussion points that evaporate as topics the second a production goes dark.

This is not to say that I am changing my mind about Joe Dowling. Rather, I am acknowledging, as I think I did in the original review, that Dowling accomplishes exactly what he sets out to do and that his Shakespeare comedies represent a very clear approach to the genre, one that I happen not to agree with, and that Dowling is a skilled practitioner at bringing that kind of Shakespeare off. But the productive conversation comes from looking at the Dowling Shakespeare phenomenon more as a jumping off point. I'd wager Dowling does implicitly trust Shakespeare (I said he didn't, and I haven't asked him) to be expansive enough to withstand whatever comic setting and added entertainments Dowling wishes to add to it. If we explore that attitude on stage rather than dismissing it ― there is no relevant "good" or "bad" about it ― then what we have instead is a question like "what does it mean to turn Shakespeare's comedies into boffo circus acts"? That, to me, is an interesting question.

And one that I'll answer in a performance log on Dowling's production of Two Gentlemen of Verona, next.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Henry V - Closing Thoughts

It’s been a long time coming, I know. I’ve been bogged down in papers, and so on, and so on, and my students cannot seem to look beyond the ideas about “Romeo and Juliet” that their 7th grade teachers clearly hammered into them. Whatever.

As a way into summarizing our conversation about Henry V, I’d like to seize upon CNN’s commentary on Ronald Reagan that Randall astutely noted: “His language gave meaning to a national triumph, comforted Americans in a national tragedy and made complex international policy disputes understandable to millions. He spoke in clear, simple terms ― too simple, his critics said ― and painted vivid pictures that sometimes reflected a reality of his own making." It seems to me that this idea of language imbuing events with significance and, in fact, reifying for others a vision that begins in a solitary consciousness ties all of our ideas together.

Gil discourses on the relative Christianity of the play, and eventually arrives at the conclusion that “Henry is a Christian king, yet almost all his humility before God is part of the fabric of public presentation.” Our conversation, in its various incarnations, has focused on the role of Henry’s presentation – the only Henry we in the audience, or his soldiers in the field, or his peers at court experience is the outward Henry. This might be a pretty terse summary, but we seem to be pointing in a simultaneously obvious and completely counterintuitive point: if great leaders have a kind of depth to their characters, they sacrifice an ordinary human depth, which is retrospectively divined from consistencies in our behavior over a period of time, for a prophetic depth, in which their character is always on the verge of becoming but has never been before. They project themselves into the future with their language, and the extent to which others act upon the received veracity of that language largely determines their success as leaders, their very reality as such.

I’ll return to William James, whom Gil quoted early in our conversation. At least, I think it’s William James. “Truth happens to an idea. It becomes true, is made true by events. Its verity is in fact an event, a process … Its validity is the process of its validation.” We spent a great deal of time trying to figure out who the real Henry is, as though his actions and his language necessarily proceeded from or according to or in contradiction with his real self; but in the end, the Henry that we have is less the Henry that was than the Henry that he built for others to believe in.

On to a comedy…


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Henrys and Hemingway

Followers of Hank the Cinque,

I’d like to add a note on Hemingway and Shakespeare. I know, I know, but I am acquainted with a bizarre ex-prof who would lecture frequently not on Marxist theory applied to Shakespeare, but, a-chronologically, on the influence of Marx on Shakespeare.

I was familiar with Henry V before I first taught Hemingway’s “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” in which the rich and glamorous couple, Francis and Margot Macomber, go on a Kenyan safari led by the Great White Hunter Wilson. Macomber displays unmanly cowardice by running from a wounded lion. Wilson and his African beaters and bearers are embarrassed, and Margot further emasculates her husband by brazenly spending the night in Wilson’s tent. Despite that, Macomber hunts again the next day, and the guys shoot three fearsome Cape Buffalo, but after some chest beating and whiskey, they learn that one wounded buffalo has gone into the bush. The exultant Macomber jabbers on about how fearless he has become, says he would like to go after another lion because, “After all, what can they do to you?”

"That’s it," said Wilson. "Worst one can do is kill you. How does it go? Shakespeare. Damned good. See if I can remember. Oh, damned good. Used to quote it to myself at one time. Let’s see. ‘By my troth, I care not; a man can die but once; we owe God a death and let it go which way it will, he that dies this year is quit for the next.’ Damned fine, eh?" He was very embarrassed, having brought out this thing he had lived by, but he has seen men come of age before and it always moved him.

Then, the wounded buffalo charges, and so forth…

I was inclined to attribute this philosophy to the calm and courageous epic hero Henry V, the once-more-into-the-breech Henry, the we-few-we-happy-few Henry as I taught this story to hundreds of freshmen. Perhaps more stoical than Christian humility. Lots of chat about Hemingway’s concept of manly greatness. When I taught Henry V in other courses, I was not alert for this quotation.

But then Ernst, last September 7, was considering 2 Henry IV and how its characters relate themselves to a larger vision of “how the world goes,” that those who do this right are the winners. He cited a scene in Gloucestershire at Justice Shallow’s house where Falstaff and Bardolf are cynically gathering cannon-fodder recruits from among Mouldy, Shadow, Wart, Feeble, and Bullcalf, though they encourage them to ransom themselves from battle. Yet one among them, Ernst notes, does not bail out:

“By my troth I care not; a man can die but once, we owe God a death. I’ll ne’er bear a base mind. And’t be my destny, so; and’t be not, so. No man’s too good to serve’s prince, and let it go which way it will, he that dies this year is quit for the next” (2 Henry IV, III.ii.234-8). [Ernst cites this quotation used in Howard Hawks’ Only Angels Have Wings, which I don’t know.]

For me, the startling revelation is this, the most noble speech in the play, this anti-base stoical philosophy, is articulated by Francis Feeble. In Henry V, it will be echoed, though degraded, by the petulant Corporal Nym: “Faith, I will live so long as I may, that’s the certain of it; and when I cannot live any longer, I will do as I may: that is my rest, that is the rendezvous of it” (Henry V, II.i.14-16). And what a contrast Feeble’s stoicism is to Henry V’s dog soldiers, Bates, Court, and Williams [in my high-school production, after I scrubbed off the aged-Canterbury makeup, I was Williams] the night before Agincourt who, though resigned to death, nonetheless shift responsibility to the King:

But if the cause be not good, the King himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs, and arms, and heads, chopp’d off in a battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all, ‘We died at such a place’—some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them … I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument. Now if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the King that led them to it. (IV.i.125-140, 141-145)

And this leads Henry to muse on ceremony, which Derek has so powerfully analyzed.

I’m moved to consider three things. Thirdly, where did the Great Hunter Wilson go to school that he knows 2 Henry IV by heart? Secondly, the contrast between Feeble’s eloquent stoicism and Williams’s rational resignation to the ugliness of battle, even as preface to the greatest English military victory of all time, deepens my response to Henry V from the potential propaganda piece it superficially appears to be. But primarily, to restate Ernst’s original position, Feeble’s satiric name is the opposite of his nature, “a double-sided nature” that humanizes 2 Henry IV and supports the double-sided natures of the now-old men, Henry IV, Northumberland, and Falstaff. And Wilson may know his source—Shakespeare, is it? Damned good—but did Hemingway? I don’t remember any irony in Hemingway, yet here is the most noble, manly moment in “The Short Happy Life,” and he is quoting Francis Feeble.

Good? Oh, damned good.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Henry V - The Great Communicator

Fift Finishers,

We've volleyed back and forth ― mock … mock … mock ― quite a bit about Henry's character, and Gil has pointed us more than once at Henry's language, particularly as it pertains to "any cause of policy." I want to muse briefly about the relationship between rhetoric and leadership, though perhaps with less seriousness than Gil has done. I'll begin with a digression:

The Denver Broncos, who recently hired a new head coach, Josh McDaniels, have spent the last month filling their other coaching staff positions, including hiring former San Francisco 49'ers head coach Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator. McDaniels told The Denver Post "Mike is a very good coach; he's a good communicator." The Denver Post also asked Nolan's old boss, Dan Reeves, about him. Reeve's responded, "He just did a phenomenal job for me … He's a great communicator."

In sports, this smacks of euphemism. You can almost hear the begged question: Do great communicators necessarily win? Maybe not. As a head coach with San Francisco, Mr. Nolan was 18-37. If it were 37-18, he wouldn't be the Denver Broncos defensive coordinator right now and Dan Reeves might forgo the "great communicator" epithet in favor of "winner." Still Nolan's communication skills have impressed more than one boss, and because coaching is all about motivation and leadership and inspirational half-time speeches, no doubt rhetoric is near the top of the job skill set. (I'm not actually certain about this, and I'd love to read a good book on different coaches' communication styles.)

In Henry V, the bishops of Canterbury and Ely are as effusive about Henry's language skills as Nolan's head coaches have been about his. In fact, Henry's "sweet and honey'd sentences" have adjusted the clergy's opinion of him from someone of relatively base quality to someone more strawberry-esque. (That's good.) Yes, the two limit their praise of Henry's rhetoric to "discourse of war" and causes "of policy," which is a little like saying he's an articulate policy wonk. What we learn over the rest of the play, though, is that Henry adroitly adapts his language to fit each situation, whether it be his eloquent scorn at the Dauphin's mockery, his fiery brutality at the gates of Harfleur, his sprinkling of righteous phrases before the nobles and religious folk, his patriotic rousing of the troops before Agincourt, or his "plain" words of love to Katherine. I opened my portion of our discussion deciding that Henry was a bit bombastic; I am pressed to revise that impression, impressed as I am now by Henry's perfect rhetorical aptness. He is, in the words of Dan Reeves, a "great communicator."

Henry's rhetorical appropriateness brings to mind our current president, Barack Obama, who, it seems, can't make a major speech without pundits discussing in advance whether he will salt his language with words that call to mind a specific ethnicity or cast a neutral veil over his speech, whether he will evoke the cadences of Martin Luther King, Jr. or eschew rhythmic variation, whether he will go for flights of rhetorical whoopdedoo or deliver something more plain and straightforward. And whenever he does the latter, Jon Stewart plays clips from his early 2008 campaign speeches ― "yes, we can" ― and looks wistful.

What's interesting is that after eight years of George W. Bush, whose rhetorical reaction to every event regardless of its significance sounded exactly the same, the punditocracy would still be aware that different objectives might dictate different rhetorical styles. I think any discussion of what type of rhetoric Obama should employ is a form of praise, an acknowledgement of the power of language, even in America where we're darned suspicious of fancy-pants speeches. It may be yet another testament to his skill that Obama has largely muted this sort of anti-intellectualism. That said, I think the jury on Obama's leadership is still out and will be determined more by his success with the economic, military, and governmental crises we face than by what he has to say about it.

Of course, when we use the phrase "great communicator," another president comes to mind: Ronald Reagan. CNN, in an online summary of a documentary they did on Reagan, said: "His language gave meaning to a national triumph, comforted Americans in a national tragedy and made complex international policy disputes understandable to millions. He spoke in clear, simple terms ― too simple, his critics said ― and painted vivid pictures that sometimes reflected a reality of his own making."

Reagan's status as a great communicator makes an interesting point ― one does not need poetic eloquence to turn language into effective leadership. (Aw shucks, Jimmy Stewart could've told you that.) It is Reagan's simplicity that people respected and responded to. Subsequent presidents may have taken this too far. Did the mangled words of the elder Bush and, even more egregiously, the younger Bush project an inability to lead? Did Clinton's ability to parse his phrases with lawyerly elusiveness inspire devotion? I'm currently teaching Macbeth, the story of a man whose leadership skills deteriorate precipitously, mostly due to his tyranny, while his rhetoric remains intact, though its eloquence is mostly turned inward. We don't discuss whether Macbeth's rhetoric is connected to his ability to lead.

Henry's rhetoric is undeniably directed outward, a tool of his leadership more than a product of his character. I come away from all this ― a text, three films, one production, and a wonderful conversation ― with a clear sense of Henry's rhetorical prowess, but a vaguer sense of the relationship between rhetoric and leadership. Political rhetoric, to be effective, must speak to people, not in spite of them. It must motivate, inspire, connect, awe, instruct. In short, it must be heard. So it must be in tune with what can be heard. Henry does that, and with such art that he doesn't seem cynically manipulative as he varies his modes. We accept "I am no tyrant, but a Christian king." We accept the obvious inspirational conceit at Agincourt. We accept his claims of plainness. And in the end his words move us, as the five-star ratings on countless clips from Branagh's version of the St. Crispin's Day speech on YouTube attest.

Great rhetoric may not always signify great leadership, but in Henry the two are inseparable. If you were down 35-10 at half-time, you'd want him giving the half-time speech to your football team.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

RE2: Henry V - The Consummate Politician

Gods and Goddesses,

I'm still thinking of the tension between Henry V as a classical epic hero or a Christian model, and I'm going to duck, for now Jim Bofenkamp's inquiries into Henry as a Christian model. One could settle this very early with Henry's declaration "We are no tyrant but a Christian king." But I would like to explore the context for this. The Archbishop and Ely have buried the Salique Law under a wonderful heap of obfuscation, worthy of a swarm of Yale post-modernists, so that Henry can say, if they insist, "now we are well resolv'd, and by God's help, and yours," therefore to France [italics mine]. Next, before the nobles, including his brother John, Duke of Bedford, he turns his attention to the attendant Ambassadors of France, with the preamble "Now are we well prepar'd to know the pleasure/ Of our fair cousin Dolphin" (I.ii.234-5).

(I only notice now the parallel "now are we well…" that focuses attention on the shift from "resolved" to "prepared," and I muse for the moment on how long he has actually prepared to sucker the Dolphin into the tennis-ball trap.)

The Ambassador (not at this point, unless one must double cast, the wonderful Montjoy of later negotiations) speaks ambassadorially,

"May't please your Majesty to give us leave
Freely to render what we have in charge?
Or shall we sparingly show you far off
The Dolphin's meaning and our embassy?"

How does one respond to such a question: may I speak truth or do you prefer lies? We get the assertion "We are no tyrant but a Christian king." Until this discussion, this never caught my attention much, though it is in keeping with the twenty-two subsequent appeals to the authority of God, reaching crescendo after Agincourt where it is "to [God']s arm alone,/ Ascribe we all," and not a word about sharpened staves and long bows, to which historians attribute the most overwhelming victory in battle in history.

I'm easy with Henry's statement. He is a Christian king, and this is the same formal rhetoric that a king uses, as we have seen in his father's rhetoric ("No more…") which opens 1 Henry IV. It also brackets the rather unChristian ridicule in the Dolphin's "tun of treasure" which provokes a response that concludes:
  • "We will in France, by God's grace, play a set/ Shall strike his father's crown into a hazard"
  • and "tell the pleasant prince this mock of his/ Hath turn'd his balls to gun-stones [how did Eric Partridge, Shakespeare's Bawdy, miss this?] …But this lies all within the will of God"
  • and "We have now no thought in us but France,/ Save those to God"
  • and "for, God before,/ We'll chide this Dolphin at his father's door"
In addition to Christian and regal, he also articulates the ethical: in this court a delegate from the enemy can appear without fear of reprisal. Consider Transylvania's Vlad the Impaler, who beheaded an entire diplomatic delegation from Russia and displayed the heads on poles outside his castle.

Recall, though, for a moment, the most chilling moment in 2 Henry IV. Before the Forest of Gaultree, the rebel forces are gathered under the Archbishop of York, Lord Hastings, and Lord Mowbray, but they receive news that the Earl of Northumberland has called in sick. Then, the Earl of Westmorland arrives from John, the Duke of Lancaster, Henry IV's younger son, to demand an explanation for their rebellion and declares a period of truce during which Lancaster will hear their motives for rebellion. Over Mowbray's objections, York and Hastings send a schedule of grievances to Lancaster, such issues as greater access to the king. Lancaster promises to redress all their grievances if they will discharge their forces, and upon agreement, they drink to the subsequent peace. Subsequently, Hastings reports the rebel armies are dispersed, and instantly Lancaster's general, Lord Westmorland, replies

"Good tidings, my Lord Hastings! for the which
I do arrest thee, traitor, of high treason,
And you, Lord Archbishop, and you, Lord Mowbray,
Of capital treason I attach you both." (2 Henry IV, IV.ii.106-9).

"Is this proceeding just and honorable? … Will you thus break your faith?" ask the rebels.

"I pawn'd thee none.
I promis'd you redress of these same grievances
Whereof you did complain, which, by mine honor,
I will perform with a most Christian care.
But for you rebels, look to taste the due
Meet for rebellion…
God, and not we, hath safely fought today.
Some guard these traitors to the block of death" (IV.ii. 113…123).

I would need to trace the variations on "redress" here, but this is the supreme instance of double-talk in the histories. Notice John of Lancaster, claiming Christian care, reads into the record the grievances, yet immediately beheads the grievers. All your high-school students now say in unison: "cold!" When will we see John of Lancaster again? Right there in King Henry V's court, now John, Duke of Bedford, among the audience for "Christian" King Henry V dealing ethically, yet powerfully with the French ambassador, then at Southampton among the observers for what I have called the theatrical display of dooming the three traitors. Might we suspect that Prince John of Lancaster might be a more likely rival to Henry V than the now too aged Earl of Northumberland? But not after these two performances. Yet, as Derek notes, Henry is always, always in some situation. And when Derek is able to superimpose ceremony for "character," I think my understanding of Henry V has at last emerged, years after I first recited "And what have kings that privates have not too,/ Save ceremony, save general ceremony?"

I don't find Henry cynical or, unlike Prince John, cleverly brutal. When the French evoke God, it is in expletives: O Dieu vivant! Mort Dieu, ma vie! Dieu de batailles! And when Fluellen evokes God, it is with reverence: God be praised and blessed! or Ay, I praise God. I think Henry is a Christian king, yet almost all his humility before God is part of this fabric of public presentation. Only in his prayer, after the little touch of Harry in the night, is his relation to God untainted by any hint of cant: "O God of battles, steel my soldiers' hearts…Not today, O Lord/ O not to-day, think not upon the fault/ My father made in compassing the crown (IV.i.289, 292-4). This is unalloyed piety.

I must shog off,


Monday, February 2, 2009

Henry V - The Mirror of All Christian Kings

Apostles of Shakespeare,

In his "consummate politician" posting, Gil relegates Henry's religious sensibility to "calculated public displays of power … political action at its most astute," turning Henry's claim to the French ambassador ― "We are no tyrant, but a Christian king" ― into a bit of Medieval spin. I found the whole argument about Henry managing carefully his public persona both convincing and compelling.

A little over a week ago, Doug forwarded me an e-mail from a man named Jim Bofenkamp. Mr. Bofenkamp, a former college Shakespeare teacher, currently holds a class called "Shakespeare and the Bible" at two churches in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. They have covered Hamlet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Richard II, King Lear, Twelfth Night, and most recently, Henry V.

I have, since we started this Shakespearean odyssey three years ago, been intrigued by Shakespeare's relationship to Christianity, but I find myself pretty ignorant when it comes to both Biblical allusion and discerning specific Christian doctrine in the plays. In fact, I have felt at times that Shakespeare holds himself fairly aloof from religious dogma and that the plays' voices are startlingly secular. But Henry V has adjusted my thinking somewhat although, again, I am moved by Gil's argument which implies a secular attitude. I do realize there is a difference between discussing Henry as a Christian model and the degree of Shakespeare's devotion. Both questions, I think, are interesting.

So I wrote Mr. Bofenkamp and asked his permission to pass along the opening questions of his Henry V "Food For Thought" e-mail, sent to his class members prior to discussion. He agreed, and I offer it here, as we move into our final week of discussion, in the hopes that it will deepen our conversation, our understanding, and our pleasure. Have fun! - Randall

Food For Thought
by Jim Bofenkamp

“Following the perennial tendency of the British to identify themselves with the Israelites, Shakespeare’s sources, Holinshed and Halle, modeled English history on the Bible’s providential pattern. They arranged their accounts to teach didactic lessons known collectively as the Tudor myth. In their telling, the succession of events demonstrated God’s involvement on the side of the legitimate authorities of State and Church. Rebellion was punished with civil strife, the weakening of the nation, and consequent universal suffering. God also punished tyrannical or impious behaviour on the part of leaders by causing their fall, but history taught that disobedience of any sort would bring down divine retribution” (Marx, p. 41).

1. In connection with the above, do you see any similarities between Henry V and Moses?

2. In connection with the above, do you see any similarities between Henry V and King David?

3. Henry V is the only Shakespeare play that mentions a specific book of the Bible. Did you catch it? Which book of the Bible is it? Where is it mentioned?

4. How is the Catholic Church (and its officials) portrayed in this play?

5. Henry is referred to as “the mirror of all Christian kings” (2.0.6). Is he? When thinking about this, please try to put yourself in the mindset of Shakespeare’s time (1600) and the mindset of Henry’s time (1415), and not in the mindset of our contemporary times.

“Some readers may object a little to Henry’s obtrusive morality and his familiarity with the Most High. They may be reminded of later czars and kaisers, likewise engaged in wars of aggression, and be inclined to call it all hypocrisy or official cant. Shakespeare surely did not mean it so; the Elizabethans would not have taken it so; and such monarchs, again, like their parties, are specimens of times and manners, now long out of date, but not out of date in the age of Elizabeth” (Berman, p. 101).

6. Tying in with the question and quotation immediately above, Marx writes, “Henry is known as both the most religious and the most warlike of English kings” (p. 44). How does this square with the above? Does it square with the above?

7. “In no other play is the name of God so omnipresent, and in no other play does the language intimate so directly the terrible distance between what is divine and what is human” (Berman, p. 7). According to Open Source Shakespeare, the word “God” (in one form or another) is used 71 times (if I counted correctly): God (57), God’s (11), God-den (1), not-God (1), and God-a-mercy (1). There is also one occurrence each of “god” and “goddess.” In addition to this, I found His (1), He (1), Dieu (8), and Deum (1). And what I assume to be Fluellen’s Welsh version of Jesus, or probably more correctly Jesu, Cheshu, three times, although there are no recorded instances in this concordance of “Jesus.” I have two questions in regard to this. First, with approximately 85 direct references to God in one grammatical form or another, how are we to account for and reconcile the numerous mentions within the same text of a number of mythological gods? In the play I came across Mars (twice), Mercury, Jove (twice), Phoebus (twice), Hermes, and Hyperion. Second, a critic writes: “Although God does not appear in the list of characters He nevertheless appears in the play. Or does He?” (Bloom, p. 21). What point do you think this critic is attempting to make?

As long as I was in the concordance I also checked for instances of the following: heaven (9), soul (15), souls (5), hell (7), hell-fire (1), devil (9), devils (3), yoke-devils (1), devilish (1), demon (1), and Satan (0).

8. “Some have compared Henry’s speech in 3.3.1-43, demanding the surrender of Harfleur, to the terms of surrender for a besieged city set out in Deuteronomy 20.10-14. Although the terms of surrender in Deuteronomy and in Henry’s speech are much the same, there are no verbal parallels in the two accounts, and Shakespeare does not seem to be referring to the account in Deuteronomy” (Shaheen, p. 460). Marx, citing the same passages in both Henry V and the Bible, comes to a different conclusion, however. “And finally he directly threatens the citizens of Harfleur with a litany of lurid atrocities explicitly derived from God’s rules of siege warfare in Deuteronomy 20 which brings about the town’s surrender (3.3.7-43)” (p. 49). [Emphasis in both quotations mine.] After looking carefully at both the beginning of act 3, scene 3 in the play and at Deuteronomy 20, in your opinion, who is correct?

Please pay particular attention to two extended sections in act 4, scene 1: lines 124-191, “Henry’s discussion [with Williams and Bates] on the responsibility for war and the fate of the soldiers who die therein”; and lines 230-284, “Henry’s musings on kingship” (his only soliloquy in the play). Between these two sections are contained “a large number of biblical and liturgical references” (Shaheen, p. 449).

Because it is their feast day, he remembers the two noble brothers, Crispin and Crispian, who during the Roman persecution served as shoemakers yet were still martyred for their obvious Christianity; and they became an image for his men in battle:

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition. (IV.iii.60-63)

9. “And it is also true that history plays like Henry V or Henry IV do seem to follow the schemata of saints’ lives and related forms: in the one case reproducing those aspects of sacred literature that O. B. Hardison terms “ritual form,” and in the other duplicating some of the features of the prodigal son stories” (Bloom, p. 87). Can you think of any saints that Henry V may have been modeled on, in whole or in part? Are there any aspects to the prodigal son story to be found in Henry V?