It’s been a while since I expressed some mild distaste at the prank played on the admittedly unsympathetic Christopher Sly at the beginning of this play.
(the reading continues to schedule, by the way, but I can see myself having to catch up on the act-by-act commentaries over the summer holidays)
Doing a bit of research – perhaps on the back of my reluctance to engage with the comedies, I found that the play has plenty of detractors, but I’ve seen it once – several years ago, at the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival – and enjoyed the performance.The casting certainly seemed to back up Robert Atkins’ views:
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 …
I wanted to reflect on the play as a whole, looking back to my ‘Expectations’ back at the end of January.
Good literature is like a magic trick.It makes you believe you are in a different time and place, and care for characters who are constructs, and react to their (also fictitious) actions as if you were a participant.
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)