Five down, one to go. The end of the penultimate half-term of the school year brings a sense of giddy euphoria. And, just for once, I’m actually having a holiday … I’ll be spending next week in Transylvania. Thisisthe final instalment of a ‘Dracula’ pilgrimage which has seen me move eastwards: from actually being quite scared at the Bram Stoker museum in Dublin; to standing in schoolboyish excitement on the beach at Whitby, on the spot where the Demetr would have grounded, vomiting Dracula onto the shore in the form of a huge black dog; and now to the Carpathians …
Has this got anything to do with Shakespeare? Shouldn’t I just blog about this somewhere else?
For a while now, it’s been a vague ambition of mine to catalogue, mind map, or in some other way classify Shakespeare’s comedy, both in the comedic plays and elsewhere.In doing so I AM mindful (for those who know their SF) of the Asimov short, ‘Jokester’ (1956), where finally getting an answer as to why humans laugh results in humour dying forever …
Still, I’m always and increasingly drawing intertextual links between and beyond Shakespeare’s plays, and this is what strikes me about what Arden calls the ‘Induction’ – the Christopher Sly frame.It’s a cousin, maybe an ancestor, of the Rabelaisean idea of ‘Carnival’ that appears later on in:
Part III begins, as Part II ended, with Warwick, perhaps reinforcing his role as ‘kingmaker’, and with the suspicion – to be dealt with later, maybe – that Henry is a ‘Jonah’ on the battlefield.Whoever’s side he appears on (note I don’t say ‘fights’ on) he seems to suck the fighting spirit out of the army like a Dementor whose puppy has just been killed in a hit-and-run accident …
A nest of hollow bosoms. (CHORUS, Henry V: II.0.18-21)
Henry VI II: Act I
It’s a strange thing, patriotism.
I’ll try to make this the final time I mention how I don’t feel especially patriotic towards England as opposed to Britain, but the beginning of the play causes me to examine my attitudes again.It probably says something about my pedantic nature that I can’t simply conflate the two.Or maybe it’s simply the fact that my Welsh girlfriend would probably dump me!Either way, I suddenly became acutely aware of an inchoate fear for the country.Ye-e-es, there was some fear for Henry, about to be eaten alive by his Queen like a hapless spider, but the sympathy I felt for Henry as a child effectively evaporated in the white heat of his ineffectuality.It facilitated of the betrayal of my new Shakespearean heroes, the Talbots, and so isn’t easily forgiven or forgotten.So it wasn’t what Margaret might or might not do to Henry that worried me.It was how she might treat England …
[subtitled: “It’s always the quiet ones you need to watch out for.”]
As I finished the play, it occurred to me that women play a much larger role than I might have guessed back in the heady days of January, when I started seriously thinking about this project.Perhaps I might refine that to say that French women.
What was/is it about the allure of French women to English men?
Writing about this act has been an almost painful task.
It would have been too too easy to continue with the ‘Carry On Up the Dolphin’ theme I’d adopted for Act II, but I didn’t feel up to it, aside from referencing the incorrigible overfamiliarity of Charles:
Ay marry, sweeting, if we could do that,
France were no place for Henry’s warriors. (III.iii.21-2)