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  • Title: The Famous Victories of Henry V: Introduction
  • Author: Mathew Martin
  • Textual editors: Andrew Griffin, Helen Ostovich
  • Coordinating editor: Michael Best
  • Production editor: Peter Cockett

  • Copyright Mathew Martin. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: Mathew Martin
    Editors (Text): Andrew Griffin, Helen Ostovich
    Not Peer Reviewed

    The Famous Victories of Henry V: Introduction

    1The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth: Basic Facts

    According to modern scholars, the anonymous The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, written and first performed in the mid-1580s, is "our earliest extant English history play" (Adams 667), a dramatic genre that Shakespeare and other playwrights would take up and make arguably the most popular kind of play on the stage in the following decade. The play, then, stands at the beginning of an impressive dramatic tradition that includes the plays for which it is often treated as merely the source, Shakespeare's 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV, and Henry V. Famous Victories, though, is in no sense merely primitive or naîve raw material. It was written for an elite acting company, the Queen's Men, who were "the best known and most widely travelled professional company in the kingdom" (McMillin and MacLean 67) and had been given a complex ideological mandate that their plays had to negotiate, which included "increas[ing] the prestige of their patron" Elizabeth and "harness[ing] the theatre in the service a moderate Protestant ideology" (McMillin and MacLean 24). Along with romances, moralities, and magician plays, history plays like Famous Victories were part of the company's propaganda effort.

    As various parts of this introduction will demonstrate, however, Famous Victories's treatment of history is not ideologically passive. Certainly, overall the play presents a positive picture of the Lancastrian hero, Henry V, from whom Elizabeth traced in part her royal descent, while minimizing attention to the dubious means by which his father, Henry IV, acquired the English crown. Nonetheless, the play does not eliminate all critique from its dramatization of Elizabeth's illustrious ancestor and his martial accomplishments, critique that in various direct and indirect ways might have been perceived as not entirely flattering reflections on the contemporary historical and political situation too. Likewise, in keeping with its mandate to promulgate a moderate Protestant ideology, the play avoids the divisive religious issues of Henry's reign, namely the rebellion and martyrdom of the Wycliffite proto-reformer Sir John Oldcastle (the character Jockey in the play), in order to present a religiously unified English nation in conflict with its national other, the French. Nonetheless, the play foregrounds another deep fissure within the English nation, that of class, in its adroit and critically pointed mixing of historical and comic characters and events. In the interactions between the play's historical, upper-class characters and its lower-class, comic characters ("clowns" like Derrick and John), the play both acknowledges the existence of a class hierarchy and exposes its gross unfairness, in times of peace as well as in times of war. The play also does not shy away from representing the gender inequities at work in war, or at least in the distribution of war's spoils: the romance of the play's concluding marriage may work to ameliorate the harsh realities of conquest for a woman in Princess Katherine's position, but in the process the play allows Katherine to articulate (to Henry and to the audience) the meaning of those harsh realities for her and gives her a measure of agency in her efforts to negotiate those realities in pursuit of both her own desire and her country's good.

    Famous Victories, then, may be partisan; it is, however, in no way jingoistic. This general contention will developed throughout the introduction, which is divided into the following six sections: Who Was Henry V?; Famous Victories and Its Sources; History and Comedy: Clowning in Famous Victories; Famous Victories and the Elizabethan Context: Empire, Invasion, Succession; Famous Victories and Shakespeare's History Plays; Famous Victories and Modern Performance.

    Who Was Henry V

    Born on 16 September 1387 at Monmouth in Wales, the child who would become Prince of Wales in 1399 and Henry V in 1413 was the eldest son of Henry Bolingbroke, earl of Derby, and the grandson of John of Gaunt, who as the duke of Lancaster and eldest surviving son of Edward III (r. 1327-1377) exercised considerable influence during the reign of his nephew, Richard II. Richard's father was Edward the Black Prince, the eldest son of Edward III. The Black Prince, however, died in 1376, a year before his father, so in 1377 Richard became England's king at the age of ten (Keen 260). His reign came to an ignominious end in 1399 when he was deposed by Henry of Bolingbroke, who became Henry IV. Having been banished from England in 1398, Henry had returned in 1399 with an army to claim his ancestral rights as duke of Lancaster, of which Richard had deprived him upon the death of John of Gaunt that year, but, seizing the opportunity afforded by Richard's absence in Ireland, decided to press further and claim the crown as well (Keen 293-4, 297-8). As Maurice Keen aptly puts it, Bolingbroke "got the crown because he was the man of the moment" (303). Famous Victories' Prince Henry might respond to the twinges of his father's conscience regarding his usurpation of Richard's crown by telling him that "Howsoever you came by it [the crown], I know not" (TLN 749), but historically the future Henry V surely did know. Having been a hostage in Richard II's camp during his father's rebellion (Seward 8-9), Prince Henry would have been well aware of the dubious means by which his father came by the English crown.

    5Moreover, becoming Prince of Wales upon his father's accession, Henry began to undertake important political and military roles in his father's regime. Contrary to the impression that the opening half of Famous Victories might give, Henry spent much of his youth working hard in his father's military campaigns in Scotland, Wales, and northern England. In 1403, at the age of sixteen, he was made lieutenant of the Marches of Wales (Seward 18) and took part in the Battle of Shrewsbury, at which his father's forces defeated a group of northern earls and Welsh rebels who intended to place the young Edmund Mortimer on the throne as Richard II's legitimate successor (Seward 19); he led his father's Welsh campaigns until the Welsh rebel Owain Glyn Dwr's final defeat in 1410 (Seward 18-25). Desmond Seward argues that "Henry V's Welsh wars prepared him for the conquest of France" (25), and it may well be that, when Exeter and Oxford assert that Prince Henry's "former life shows no less" (TLN 759) in response to Henry IV's prediction of a successful reign for his son, they are being neither sycophantic nor ironic but merely alluding to this aspect of Prince Henry's past, otherwise ignored by the play. In fact the play (somewhat inaccurately) commences its narrative "in the fourteenth year of the reign of our sovereign lord King Henry the Fourth" (TLN 322-3), 1413, the year of Henry IV's death, the four years preceding which had witnessed the development of somewhat tumultuous relations between the ailing monarch and his now seemingly less than dutiful and obedient son. Incapacitated by illness, in 1410 the king was required to confide the realm's government to his council, which was dominated by his eldest son and his supporters. Prince Henry followed very different policy directions from his father, especially in matters concerning English involvement in French internal strife, and was dismissed from council and deprived of power when his father recovered in 1411 (Dockray 87-9). No doubt relations between father and son had not been helped by the fact that Prince Henry had suggested that his father should abdicate (Seward 31). The final year and a half before Henry IV's death on 20 March 1413 saw Prince Henry publicly attempting to counter rumors that he wanted to dethrone his father and achieving a degree of reconciliation with him in the "gown of needles" incident, a version of which is dramatized in scene six of Famous Victories (Dockray 90-3).

    After his accession to the throne, Henry V quickly began plans to obtain the crown of France. In 1414 and again in 1415, Henry sent embassies into France demanding the French crown, marriage to Charles VI's daughter Katherine with a large dowry, and major territorial concessions (Dockray 136-7). The French rejected these demands, as Henry surely knew they would. On 6 July 1415 he declared war on France, and on 11 August he launched from Southampton the full-scale invasion for which he had preparing throughout the preceding negotiations (Dockray 137-40).

    Famous Victories compresses this complex historical process into one fluid scene, at the beginning of which Henry's erstwhile companion Jockey exclaims "Did you not see with what grace he sent his embassage into France to tell the French king that Harry of England hath sent for the crown and Harry of England will have it?" (TLN 800-803) and at the conclusion of which Henry tells his noble counselors, "let us be gone and get our men in a readiness" (TLN 985) for the invasion. Framed by these expressions of Henry's unswerving determination, the scene shifts quickly from dramatizing Henry's rejection of the old companions of his dissolute recent past to staging the steps leading to the war with France as further confirmation of his reformation: Henry receives advice from his wise new counselors, responds haughtily to the French ambassador who conveys Charles VI's disdainful rejection of Henry's demands and presents the Dauphin Louis' insulting gift of a tun of tennis balls and a carpet, appoints as lord protector the Lord Chief Justice to whom he had given a box on the ear earlier in the play, and then marches off to war. His first stop was Harfleur, which he successfully besieged 19 August-23 September (Dockray 140). The siege seriously weakened Henry's army, however, and he decided to march back to the English city of Calais rather than venture deeper into French territory. A French army intercepted the English along the way, leading to the famous battle of Agincourt on 25 October, in which the English longbow played the central role in producing an overwhelming victory for the drastically outnumbered English (Dockray 143-55).

    The dramatization of Agincourt takes up the bulk of the second half of Famous Victories, from scene eleven to scene eighteen, highlighting the overconfidence of the French in contrast to the grim resolve and piety of the English. Although in scene eleven the French king and ambassador recognize the magnitude of the threat posed by Henry's invasion, both the dauphin and the constable treat it lightly. "Tut, my lord, although the king of England be young and wild-headed, yet never think he will be so unwise to make battle against the mighty king of France" (TLN 1072-1075), the dauphin advises his father. The constable is even more condescending: "Tush, we will make him as tame as a lamb" (TLN 1101), he retorts when the French ambassador reports that Henry "is such a haughty and high-minded prince, he is as fierce as a lion" (TLN 1099-1100). Two scenes later, on the eve of the battle, a French captain catches his men playing at dice for high-ranking figures in the English forces, including the king, as hostages. Rather than rebuking them, the captain informs them that the king "is left behind for me, and I have set three or four chair-makers a-work to make a new disguised chair to set that womanly king of England in, that all the people may laugh and scoff at him" (TLN 1226-1230). "I am glad, yet with a kind of pity, to see the poor king. Why, whoever saw a more flourishing army in France in one day than here is?" (TLN 1232-1235), he declares. In contrast, the English forces are fully cognizant of their plight: "They threescore thousand, and we but two thousand. They forty thousand footmen, and we twelve thousand" (TLN 1262-1265), Henry calculates at the beginning of scene fourteen, "They are a hundred thousand, and we fourteen thousand: ten to one" (TLN 1266-1267). Nonetheless, Henry is not dismayed: "My lords and loving countrymen, though we be few and they many, fear not. Your quarrel is good, and God will defend you. Pluck up your hearts, for this day we shall either have a valiant victory or an honorable death" (TLN 1268-1272). Henry's piety remains even after the battle is over: "the honorable victory which the Lord hath given us doth make me much rejoice" (TLN 1351-1352).

    Having given eight scenes to Agincourt, the play then moves from the comic interlude in scene eighteen featuring Derrick and the French soldier to Henry's negotiations for France and Katherine in scenes nineteen and twenty-one. The dramatic illusion created by this sequence, and by Derrick's allusion to "the duke of York's funeral" (TLN 1607-1608) in scene twenty, is that the negotiations follow immediately after the battle, but historically almost five years separate Agincourt and the Treaty of Troyes, signed 21 May 1420, whose terms were that Henry be regent of France during Charles VI's lifetime, that Katherine be given to Henry in marriage, and that their heirs be recognized as the legitimate French monarchs (Dockray 188-89). Henry V returned to England soon after Agincourt, on 15 November 1415, but invaded France again 1 August 1417, besieging Rouen 30 July 1418 and negotiating the Treaty of Troyes after Rouen surrendered 19 January 1419 (Dockray 159; 170-8). Henry did not live long enough to enjoy the fruits of the Treaty of Troyes, however: he died on 31 August 1422, predeceasing Charles VI by less than two months and leaving the English and French crowns to his infant son Henry VI.

    10This brief summary of Henry's reign might leave the impression that Henry was preoccupied primarily with foreign affairs. According to modern historians, however, Henry did not neglect domestic matters (Seward 171-2), and one such domestic matter is especially noteworthy because of its conspicuous absence from Famous Victories: the matter of Sir John Oldcastle. Prince Henry's companion before Henry became king, Sir John Oldcastle (1378-1417), was executed after having been found guilty of heresy in 1413 and having been implicated in various revolts against Henry between 1413 and 1417 (Dockray 53, 103-10). Oldcastle's heretical beliefs derived from those of the proto-Protestant fourteenth-century Oxford scholar John Wycliffe, and sixteenth-century Protestant Reformers like John Foxe considered Oldcastle to be a martyr (Corbin and Sedge 2). Nonetheless, the play chooses not to mention either Oldcastle's religious beliefs or his rebellions, limiting Oldcastle's presence to that of a minor character, Jockey, who, along with his companions Ned and Tom, disappears from the play after Henry dismisses them in scene nine. One might chalk this up to the dramatic streamlining to which the examples of dramatic compression discussed above attest, but significantly, writing in the 1580s, the playwright saw fit to minimize internal political divisions and confessional conflicts to present Henry as a Christian hero leading a nation whose fissures are primarily those of class. The play's only hint at confessional conflict, in fact, is mapped onto and muted by national antagonism. Urging John in scene ten to say goodbye to his wife and depart as soldier for France, Derrick says, "Why, John, come away! Dost think that we are so base-minded to die among Frenchmen? Zounds, we know not whether they will lay us in their church or no" (TLN 1054-1057). An Elizabethan audience member might anachronistically assume that the reason underlying Derrick's fear that dead English soldiers wouldn't be given a proper burial is that Catholics considered Protestants heretics and therefore unfit for burial in the sacred ground of the churchyard, but even if this is the case the play deflects the religious tension outward onto the larger, more emphatically stated conflict between the English and the French, and turns the possibility of improper burial into a joke.

    Famous Victories and its Sources

    The author of Famous Victories took the received facts of Henry V's reign mainly from a mid-sixteenth-century history, Edward Hall's The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancaster and York (1550), much of which was later incorporated in Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles, the 1577 edition of which the author may also have consulted, along with Stow's Chronicles (1580). Tudor chronicles such as Hall's, Holinshed's, and Stow's are characterized by the way in which they weave the histories of individual monarchs and their reigns into moralizing and providentialist grand narratives: each particular monarch becomes an example of vice or virtue whose fate testifies to the unfolding of God's plan in the secular time of human affairs. In her essay on the providentialism underpinning Holinshed's history, Alexandra Walsham writes that "For early modern Englishmen and women the idea that history was a record of the marvellous workings of the Almighty in the world was both a pious commonplace and a deeply ingrained precept" (427) and that "far from bearing witness to the gradual collapse of providence as an explanatory paradigm, the two editions of Holinshed's Chronicles underline the vitality and resilience of this way of thinking" (429).

    Several examples from Hall will serve to illustrate the workings of providentialist thought in the play's historical sources. In Hall's narrative, Edward II and Richard II are held up as examples of kings who "fell from the high glory of fortunes whele two [sic] extreme misery and miserable calamitee" (Henry Vfol.1v) because of evil counselors, in contrast to whom the newly crowned Henry V's replacement of his old companions with wise advisors is praiseworthy. Indeed, Henry's adoption of new counselors is, according to Hall, evidence that Henry "determined with himself to put on the shape of a new man" (Henry V fol. 1r). Following up the echo of the terminology of Christian conversion here, at the end of his account of Henry's reign Hall lauds Henry as "the blazing comete and apparent lantern in his dayes, he was the mirror of Christendome and the glory of his country, he was the floure of kynges passed, and a glasse to them that would succeed" (Henry V fol. 49v). Later, through the mouth of the duke of York, Hall provides a providentialist interpretation of Henry VI's downfall as deferred punishment for his grandfather's usurpation of the crown from Richard II: "although almighty God slackely and slowly do procede, to the punishment of synners: yet the differryng of his scorge, is recompensed, with the greater payn, when his rod striketh, and oftentimes he leaueth the very malefactors, apparauntly vnpunished, and scorgeth their bloud, and punisheth them in their heyres, by worldely aduersitie" (Henry VI fol. 96v).

    Nonetheless, as Phyllis Rackin observes, sixteenth-century English historians were beginning to be influenced by rationalist models of historiography that tended to seek explanations for historical events in purely human terms, models developed previously in Italy in the works of such political theorists as Machiavelli (5-8). Historians like Hall and Holinshed, Rackin contends, "mingled providential and Machiavellian explanations, with no apparent sense of contradiction" (7). Famous Victories does likewise. As we have seen, the play follows Hall in representing Henry as a Christian monarch who, for example, attributes his success at Agincourt to God. The play also broadly reproduces the conversion narrative that structures Hall's representation of Henry's transition from prince to king: confronting his father in scene six in his cloak of needles, Prince Henry is suddenly struck by his "conscience" (TLN 613), submits himself to his father, and, after receiving his father's blessing, declares "I am born new again" (TLN 644). Yet in the play this pious perspective on Henry jostles with other, less flattering or moralized ones.

    Three examples, all frequently discussed in modern criticism of the play, illustrate the extent to which the playwright was willing to modify his sources to present these alternative perspectives. The play opens with Prince Henry and his companions gleefully counting the money they have just robbed from Henry's father's receivers (tax collectors and rent gatherers). The incident is related in Stow as follows: Henry

    15wold waite in disguised araye for his owne receyuers, and distresse them of theyre money: and sometimes at suche enterprices both he and his company wer surely beaten: and when his receiuers made to him their complaints, how they were robbed in their coming vnto him, he wold giue them discharge of so much mony as they had lost, and besides that, they should not depart from him without great rewards for their trouble and vexation, especially they should be rewarded that best hadde resisted hym and his company, and of whom he had receyued the greatest and most strokes. (Chronicles 583)

    The Prince Henry of Famous Victories, however, robs his father's receivers, does not restore their money but rather plans to spend it at "the old tavern in Eastcheap" (TLN 93) where "[t]here is good wine" (TLN 94) and "a pretty wench" (TLN 94), and after having intimidated the receivers with threats of hanging exclaims, "Was this not bravely done?" (TLN 84). In contrast to Stow's sporting but ultimately generous and fair prince, the play's prince, according to Larry Champion, here displays "his concern only for personal pleasure and for the material benefits that accrue from a privileged position above the law" (5). "The result," Champion suggests, "is a demystification of the royal house and an exposure of the corruption at its center" (5).

    Scene four, the scene in which Prince Henry assaults the Lord Chief Justice for refusing to release Cutbert Cutter, affords the opportunity to observe the playwright negotiating between several sources to produce a similar demystification. Hall's account of the incident is brief: "for the imprisonmente of one of his wanton mates and vnthriftie plaisaiers he [Prince Henry] strake the chiefe Justice with his fiste on the face. For which offence he was not onely committed to streyght prison, but also of his father put out of the preuy counsaill and banished the courte" (Henry V fol. 1r). In the more elaborate versions of the incident found in Thomas Elyot's The Book named the Governor and Stow's Annals, however, the prince's anger is subdued when the Lord Chief Justice "charge you [the prince] desist of your wilfulnes and unlaufull enterprise, and from hensforth gyve good example to those whiche hereafter shall be your proper subjects. And nowe for your contempt and disobedience, go you to the prison of the kynges bench, where unto I committe you" (Bullough 4.289). Henry goes, and when his father hears of it he exclaims, "O mercifull god, howe moche am I, above all other men, bounde to your infinite goodness; specially, for that ye have given me a juge, who feareth nat to minister justice, and also a sonne who can suffer sembably and obey justice" (Bullough 4.289). Famous Victories clearly echoes the more extended version of Elyot and Stow, but, significantly, follows Hall in representing Prince Henry assaulting the Lord Chief Justice and being, as Janet Clare notes, unrepentant about it afterwards: "Gog's wounds, Ned, didst thou not see what a box on the ear I took my Lord Chief Justice?" (TLN 484-486). Contrary to Elyot and Stow's moralizing interpretation of this incident, according to Clare, the play's "message is unequivocal: there is one law for the powerful, another for the powerless" (106). Observing the comedy of the scene, created through the repetition in the dialogue, the physical assault, and Ned's menacing but humorous question (repeated throughout the play), "Gog's wounds, my lord, shall I cut off his [the Lord Chief Justice's] head?" (TLN 391), Louise Nichols contends that "[t]he scene (Ned's defiance included) completely destroys the moral emphasis given this part of Henry's life in the chronicles and in the process, makes a travesty of justice and the court setting. It is clearly a parody of the historical accounts which the audience would have known well, and this dramatic, comical version would undoubtedly have caused much laughter" (170).

    The third example involves the cloak of needles in which Prince Henry confronts his father in scene six. In Stow, when Prince Henry learns that his father "suspected that he would presume to vsurpe the crown, he being aliue," he "disguised himself in a gown of blew satten, made full of small Oylet holes, and at euery Oylet the needle wherwith it was made hanging still by a threede of silke. And about his arme he ware a dogges coller set ful of SS [curved links] of golde, and the Tirets [rings of a dog collar by which the leash is attached] of the same also of fine gold. Thus apparelled, with a great companye of Lordes and other noble men of his Court, he came to the king his father" (Chronicles 576). As Sally Romotsky insightfully observes, the author of Famous Victories has inverted the gown's meaning. If sixteenth-century historical accounts of Prince Henry's gown consider it to be a sign of his sincere contrition for his unruliness and his desire for reconciliation with his father (157), in Famous Victories the cloak "symbolizes callous ambition" (158) and aggression: "'tis a sign that I stand upon thorns 'til the crown be on my head" (TLN 533-534), according to Prince Henry, to which Jockey adds "Or that every needle might be a prick to their hearts that repine at your doings" (TLN 535-536). Later in the scene Prince Henry's sudden repentance before his father is dramatically represented when he gives his father his dagger, throws off "this ruffianly cloak" (TLN 628), and asks for his father's pardon. As Karen Oberer has recently argued, the play's audience would have been familiar with the symbolism of such sudden conversions from morality play drama: "The audience expects Prince Henry to transform just as Everyman or Mankind (or the prodigal) does" (173). Nonetheless, Champion suggests, the inverted symbolism of the cloak combined with the naked aggression of the dagger might strain the credulity of even those audience members accustomed to the sudden conversions of the morality play. If, as the cloak and the dagger might indicate, Prince Henry confronts his sickly father fully intending to murder him, then, according to Champion, his sudden conversion could be considered merely a face-saving strategy that "covers his original scheme to take the king's life; the resulting reconciliation with his father also solidifies his expectations for the crown" (7). Champion sees the ambivalence of the play's dramatization of Prince Henry's conversion as representative of the multivocality of the play as a whole. "The Famous Victories," he states, "in the final analysis, offers little guidance or shaping of events in such a manner as to delimit the meaning or significance of history, and the spectator is individually forced to come to terms with the welter of contradictions and conflicting ironies" (15).

    History and Comedy: Clowning in Famous Victories

    Famous Victories' mingling of historical perspectives finds concrete expression in its mingling of the serious and the comic. Scenes featuring such comic characters as John and Derrick, whose role was played by the famous clown Richard Tarlton, alternate regularly with the scenes dominated by the English and French nobility. Corbin and Sedge remark that "One of the undoubted achievements of Famous Victories lies in its mingling of clowns and conquest at a time when 'heroicall histories' contained few examples of low-life humour" (25). This achievement, which later Elizabethan dramatists such as Marlowe and Shakespeare would incorporate into their own dramaturgy, is significant, Corbin and Sedge contend, because it "offers not 'relief' but a balance of perception to the audience" (27). Scene ten, in which the prospect of the war with France is shown from the perspective of commoners being pressed into the king's army, provides one example of this balance of perception; scene twenty, which interposes a scene featuring the spoils of war for the commoners, shoes and clothes stripped from corpses left on the battlefield, between two scenes featuring the spoils of war for Henry, a crown and a royal wife, provides another. The scenes featuring the comic characters' involvement in the war are deeply funny but not frivolous.

    20Other critics have argued that the comedy and clowning are ideologically edgier that the word "balance" might allow. Nichols, for example, argues that "the comic scenes effectively diminish the significance of the chronicle version of Henry's life" (162). Indeed, for Nichols the critical deflation can be the effect of the comic not just alternating with but, more forcefully, seeping into ostensibly serious moments in the play, such as Prince Henry's sudden reformation in scene six: "Henry's sudden, motiveless transformation, the overly emotional and weepy exchange that occurs between father and son, the melodramatic passing of the dagger and the prince's tearing off of his cloak are all part of what could be a very funny scene and a parody of the chronicle story as it was known to the play's original audience" (173).

    Brian Walsh suggests that the comedy has a function akin to the Brechtian "alienation effect." "Clowning with history is a signature move of the Queen's Men, a move that highlights the temporality and artifice of historical knowledge" (48), he writes. Walsh's argument here emerges out of his analysis of scene five of the play, in which John and Derrick repeat the previous scene's dramatization of Prince Henry hitting the Lord Chief Justice for his refusal to release Cutbert Cutter. As Robert Weimann puts it, in this scene "the delicate subject of princely prerogative is played out once more, but this time from a complementary and thoroughly plebeian point of view" that reveals its farcical and inequitable nature (188). If, as Derrick exclaims before he and John commence their re-enactment, the blow that Prince Henry gave to the Lord Chief Justice illustrates "what princes be in choler" (TLN 420), then John's response is to indicate that such intemperate violence is not the prerogative of commoners: "we should have been hanged" (TLN 424). The two commoners, however, hilariously usurp that prerogative along with their aristocratic betters' identities in their muddled restaging, which leads to John confusing his real and assumed roles and to Derrick as Prince Henry mocking John the Lord Chief Justice's claim "to teach you what prerogatives mean" (TLN 453) as he hits him, exits and re-enters the stage, and concludes, "O John, come, come out of thy chair! Why, what a clown wert thou to let me hit you a box on the ear, and now thou seest they will not take me to the Fleet!" (TLN 457-459). The two clowns' re-enactment, according to Walsh, allows them critically to appropriate the past for their present purposes and pleasures: "Reenacting the incident allows them to reflect on it, while also affording them the thrill of assuming aristocratic identities and participating in the transgression of the Prince's indecorous strike" but, through his clowning, "Derrick disrupts the mimetic moment in which he and John are engaging and, by so doing, mirrors how the larger mimetic framework of the play as a representation of the past cannot be sustained" (64). For Walsh, Derrick and John's clowning in this scene exemplifies the function of the clowning throughout the play: through its clowning, "The Famous Victories of Henry V demonstrates that the enactment of history, showing the past, must unfold in the present-tense of theatrical time and so asserts that the historical time of the history play is an institutionalized construct produced in and on theatrical terms" (68).

    Famous Victories and the Elizabethan Context: Empire, Invasion, Succession

    The anonymous playwright who in the mid-1580s penned Famous Victories for the Queen's Men chose as his subject a historical figure and historical events with which he could depend upon his audiences being instantly familiar. Even as they were occurring, Henry's military successes began to be recorded in English, French, and Latin by eyewitnesses and historians with access to eyewitness accounts issuing from both sides of the English invasion of France. Indeed, historian Keith Dockray remarks, "From the very moment of his accession, if not before, Henry embarked on a deliberate stratagem of image-creation, consciously presenting himself as a dramatic contrast to his cautious and uncharismatic father Henry IV, a man not only resolved to restore harmony at home but also vigorously reassert traditional English claims to hegemony in France" (13). The initial histories and other near-contemporaneous fifteenth-century accounts of the events of Henry's reign were later embroidered with anecdotes about Henry's unruly youth and incorporated into the major sixteenth-century English chronicle histories of Hall, Holinshed, and Stow (Dockray 47-50). By the time our anonymous playwright wrote The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, in fact, Henry had become an English national hero. The play's major historical source, Edward Hall's The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancaster and York (1550), ends its chapter on "the victorious actes of kynge Henry the fyft" (Henry V fol. 51v) with a detailed account of Henry's magnificent funeral and sums up the tragically short-lived monarch's reign with an almost Shakespearean defiance of time's potential to tarnish the lustre of his fame: "Thus ended this noble and puissant prince his most noble and fortunate reygne ouer the realme of England: whose life although cruell Atropos before hys time abbreuiated, yet neyther fyre, ruste, nor frettyng tyme shall emongest Englyshemen ether appall his honoure or oblyterate hys glorye, whyche in so fewe yeres and bryefe dayes achyued so hyghe aduentures and made so greate a conquest" (Henry V fol. 51v).

    Aiding the intrepid historian in his battle against fire, rust, and fretting time in the last decades of the sixteenth century were such plays as Famous Victories, Shakespeare's later Henry V (first performed 1599), and possibly another Henry V play if, as David Bevington has suggested (18), the "harey the v" (33) whose thirteen performances at the Rose theatre between 28 November 1595 and 15 July 1596 are recorded in Henslowe's diary is a distinct play from the other two (Foakes 33-7, 47-8). "[W]hat a glorious thing it is," writes Thomas Nashe in 1592, "to have Henry the Fifth represented on the stage, leading the French king prisoner, and forcing both him and the Dolphin to swear fealty" (113). Thus, Nashe declares, "our forefathers' valiant acts, that have lain long buried in rusty brass and worm-eaten books, are revived, and they themselves raised from the grave of oblivion" (113).

    Nashe may or may not be alluding specifically to Famous Victories, in which the French King Charles VI is neither led onstage as a prisoner nor forced to swear allegiance to Henry (at least not in the two surviving early modern editions published in 1598 and 1617), yet his remarks, made in the context of a defense of plays against detractors who claimed that they inculcated sloth and immorality, clearly demonstrate that at least some of their audience members perceived history plays in general and history plays about Henry V in particular to be performing significant (and positive) ideological work in early modern English culture. Twentieth-century critics of Famous Victories have until recently tended to label the play's ideological work as patriotism, often in order to explain or excuse the play's supposed faults as a work of dramatic art. Thus, Madeleine Doran asserts that Famous Victories' "chief shaping attitude is patriotism" (Doran 114); although he describes the play as a "decrepit pot-boiler," Bullough concedes that it was "[f]rom Famous Victories Shakespeare learned how to fuse comedy and heroism in one of the greatest national figures" (4.168). This critical verdict has persisted. Contending that "playgoers enjoyed its untroubled patriotism" (99), James Shapiro asserts that "The Famous Victories had no ambition to leave audiences wrestling with any great moral issues and it certainly didn't make any intellectual demands on them. If you were paying to see a play about Henry V you could expect to have a few laughs and cheer on your nation and its heroic past" (99). McMillin and MacLean offer a more complex assessment of the ideological function of Famous Victories and other Queen's Men plays, but they nonetheless also argue that one of the main purposes of this elite touring company was nationalist propaganda. As we have seen, though, Champion and others have found Famous Victories to be less ideologically acquiescent than these arguments would indicate, and in the three subsections that follow I will outline ways in which elements of the play's Elizabethan historical context would almost inevitably give its re-enactment of the history of Henry V a critical edge.


    25If, as Clare has argued, "the history play . . . served collective memory in representing the nation's heroic past" (102), then in the mid-1580s the Elizabethan collective memory may have found the service provided by Famous Victories to be as painful and unsettling as patriotic and nostalgic. Henry's brightness would unavoidably have illuminated the damage fretting time had wrought to England's greatness over the 150 years from Henry's death to the reign of Elizabeth. Henry's conquest of France represented one of the high points for the English in the One Hundred Years War between the two countries that began in 1337 when Philip VI of France seized the duchy of Aquitaine from Edward III, who claimed the French crown through his mother Isabella, daughter of the earlier French king, Philip IV (Allmand 7, 13). Henry's conquests gave the English monarch and his successors the rule over a large European empire with vast resources (France was the most populous European nation in the medieval period). That empire, however, began to disappear rapidly after Henry's death in 1422. By 1429 the dauphin Charles, son of the French King Charles VI whose defeat Famous Victories dramatizes, had with the help of the army of Joan of Arc sufficiently repulsed the occupying English forces to be crowned Charles VII at Reims (Allmand 33-34). Although in 1431 the English countered with the coronation of Henry VI, Henry's son by Katherine, as king of France in Paris (Allmand 34), by 1453 the French had largely succeeded in driving the English from their territories (Allmand 36). Finally, through the Treaty of Cateau-Cambr├ęsis in 1559, a year after Elizabeth's accession to the English throne, and the Treaty of Troyes in 1564, the English ceded back to the French their last possession on French soil, the economically and strategically important port city of Calais (Guy 264-67). Not since 1066, the year the duke of Normandy conquered England and inaugurated a new Anglo-Norman dynasty, had England been so insular.


    Vulnerability accompanied the insularity. If during Henry's reign England was the imperial aggressor, during Elizabeth's reign England was primarily the target of the imperial aggression of sixteenth-century Europe's Catholic powerhouse, Spain. In the sixteenth century, the Protestant Reformation divided Europe into hostile confessional camps. By 1534 Henry VIII (r. 1509-1547) had placed England in the Protestant camp, a position extended by his son Edward VI (r. 1547-1553), reversed by his eldest daughter Mary (r. 1553-1558), who married Philip II of Spain and returned England to Catholicism, but finally consolidated by Elizabeth. Protestant Elizabethan England thus emerged as the David-like champion of European Protestantism pitted against the gigantic military might of a Spanish empire whose efforts to assert its hegemony in the European arena were sustained by immense flows of New World gold and silver. The struggle was fought mainly abroad, with Elizabeth sending money and small numbers of troops to support Protestants in the Low Countries and France or sponsoring naval raids along the coasts of Spain and Spanish American territories. By 1585, however, England was unofficially at war with Spain, a situation that rendered a Spanish attempt to invade England an imminent likelihood (Hammer 1-3). The anticipated attempt materialized in 19 July 1588, when a Spanish armada of 131 ships sailed into the English Channel, but bad weather and superior English naval mobility and gunnery prevented Spanish ships or troops from landing on English shores (Guy 339-42). Spain would launch similar Armadas in 1596, 1597, and 1599 (Guy 350-351).

    The decades of the 1580s and 1590s, then, the decades of Famous Victories' composition and initial performances, were a time of deep military anxiety for the English nation, an anxiety that the memory of Henry V's vanished martial accomplishments may have exacerbated as much as ameliorated. The anxiety generated by the heightened militarism of Elizabethan England may be obliquely refracted in Famous Victories' recruiting scene, in which a captain presses John Cobbler, Derrick, and the thief Cutbert Cutter for service in France. The system of impressment dramatized in this scene is Elizabethan rather than medieval. Elizabeth's government attempted to establish a national system of recruitment for the militia and the army to replace a system that relied on aristocrats recruiting their own soldiers (Hammer 67). The recruiting scene is an ambivalent representation of the results. Although Derrick seems eager to fight, John is not. The common tradesman John perceives war not as the opportunity to acquire glory but as a potentially ruinous economic disruption: "Oh, sir, I have a great many shoes at home to cobble" (TLN 998-999), he pleads to the captain. "Tush, I care not. Thou shalt go" (TLN 1001), is the captain's reply. Whether they wanted to or not, commoners bore the brunt of the wars begun by aristocrats. The new recruiting practices also found easy targets in "masterless men," dispossessed and wandering criminals and paupers whose lack of a master placed them on the peripheries or in the interstices of Elizabethan society. Cutbert Cutter represents this demographic. "Dost thou want a master?" (TLN 1032), the captain asks Cutbert. "Ay, truly sir" (TLN 1033), Cutbert replies, upon which the captain immediately declares, "I press thee for a soldier to serve the king in France" (TLN 1034-1035). Having been exploited then abandoned as Prince Henry's "villain that was wont to spy out our booties" (TLN 26-27), the masterless Cutbert is returned to his old master, now King Henry V, to do him further service in the larger thievery of war.


    In its opening scenes the play hints at another major Elizabethan political issue: succession. In scene two, as the three members of Billingsgate Ward's local watch--John Cobbler, Robin Pewterer, and Lawrence Costermonger--prepare themselves for their evening duties, they discuss the antics of the youth they presume is their future sovereign. Noting Prince Henry's reputation for highway robbery, John comments to Lawrence that "I dare not call him thief, but sure he is one of these taking fellows" (TLN 121). Clare comments that John's "subordination makes him circumspect; he names thievery by not naming it" (110), acknowledging through his rhetorical evasion that "there is one law for the powerful and another for the commonality" (110). John's circumspection is more explicit when, immediately after (not) calling the prince a thief, he touches upon the matter of succession: "I hear say, if he use it long, his father will cut him off from the crown. But, neighbor, say nothing of that" (TLN 124-126). In an Elizabethan context, the anxiety of these commoners is understandable. When Elizabeth ascended the throne in 1558, the expectation was that she would marry and, unlike her elder half-sister Mary, produce an heir to continue the line of Tudor monarchs and provide English government with long-term political stability. Close to thirty years later, Elizabeth remained unmarried and childless. Commoners and aristocrats alike were concerned that some resolution to this problem be found, but Elizabeth reacted violently to their attempts to offer her their advice. In 1579, for example, John Stubbes, author of a tract opposing Elizabeth's last serious marriage negotiation, with the French and Catholic duke of Alençon, had as thanks for his efforts his right hand publicly chopped off (Neale 245-46). Elizabethan audiences would have had no difficulty sensing the fear of political oppression and recognition of political exclusion underlying the nervousness of the watchmen's conversation, while also being reminded that their monarch, unlike Henry IV, had no heir whatsoever, and certainly not a male heir who, however unruly as a youth, would later become a triumphant military hero.

    The audience's awareness of the events surrounding Mary Queen of Scots might have added to this tension. Chased from Scotland in 1567 and held by Elizabeth under closely guarded forms of house arrest until her execution in 1587, Mary had been queen of France during the brief reign of her husband Francis II (r. 1559-60) and queen regnant of Scotland from 1542 to 1567. Lineally descended from Henry VII by Henry's oldest daughter Margaret, the Catholic Mary was considered by many to possess a stronger claim to the English crown than Elizabeth, the dubiously legitimate daughter of Henry VIII's arguably adulterous union with his second wife Anne Boleyn, to be the strongest candidate to be Elizabeth's successor, and, in the minds of many English Catholics, to be the logical choice to replace Elizabeth should a Spanish invasion of England succeed. Mary's presence in England unsurprisingly raised the temperature of the debates surrounding legitimacy, marriage, and succession. Indeed, Mary became the center of Catholic conspiracies to assassinate Elizabeth and place Mary on the throne (Guy 277-8, 284-5, 331-7). The unravelling of one such conspiracy, known as the Babington Plot, led to Mary's execution in 1587 (Guy 334-6). The history dramatized by Famous Victories would no doubt have resonated strongly with the concerns of this heated political situation. The play features a monarch whose father, Henry IV, usurped the English crown from its previous wearer, Richard II, in 1399 and then had him murdered, and whose own legitimacy was called into question on the eve of his invasion of France in 1415 by a conspiracy, known as the Southampton Plot, whose participants intended to assassinate Henry and replace him with Edmund Mortimer, son of the man whom the parliament had declared in 1397 to be the heir presumptive of the childless Richard II (Seward 9, 47-9; Dockray 110-15; Keen 303).

    30Interestingly, the play mutes this thread of Henry's history, omitting the Southampton Plot entirely and converting Henry IV's rather vague mention of the questionable means by which he acquired the throne into an opportunity for his son to display a bravado that wins him the approval of the dying king and his aristocratic advisors. Having given Prince Henry his crown, Henry IV confesses that "God knows, my son, how hardly I came by it and how hardly I have maintained it" (TLN 747-748), provoking from Prince Henry the rousing declaration that "Howsoever you came by it, I know not, but now I have it from you, and from you I will keep it. And he that seeks to take the crown from my head, let him look that his armor be thicker than mine, or I will pierce him to the heart, were it harder than brass or bullion" (TLN 749-754). Prince Henry's words minimize the matter of legitimacy, valorizing instead the martial strength necessary to maintain power: in domestic as well as foreign affairs, Prince Henry will prove his legitimacy with his sword. The dying king, Exeter, and Oxford approve this position. "Nobly spoken, and like a king" (TLN 755), responds Henry IV, "Now trust me, my lords, I fear not but my son will be as warlike and victorious a prince as ever reigned in England" (TLN 756-758). Perhaps unwittingly raising to the surface the disregard of legality implicit in Prince Henry's power politics, Exeter and Oxford in unison reply that "His former life shows no less" (TLN 759). Famous Victories may avoid directly or extensively addressing the issues of legitimacy, succession, and marriage in their Elizabethan configurations, then, but even in the limited form in which it touches upon them it raises probing political questions to which its Elizabethan audience would have been sensitive.

    Famous Victories and Shakespeare's History Plays

    Famous Victories' enactment of the history of Henry V's life led to its further appropriation in subsequent English history plays, most notably Shakespeare's trilogy, 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV, and Henry V. Shakespeare's indebtedness to Famous Victories has long been acknowledged. As early as 1928 Bernard Ward concluded that Shakespeare took from the earlier history play "the entire design--lock, stock, and barrel" of his own three plays (273). More recently, arguing that the 1600 quarto edition of Henry V is a "workmanlike revamping of the old Queen's Men play" while the 1623 folio version is a "much fuller" and "multilayered" revision, Richard Dutton observes that "FV consists of 20 scenes [21 in this edition]. 1 to 7 correspond with parts of Shakespeare's 1 Henry IV; 8 and part of 9 correspond with 2 Henry IV; and the remainder of 9 to 20 (more than half the play) correspond closely with [H5] Q" (137, 139, 140). While "[t]here are relatively few verbal links between FV and [H5] Q," Dutton argues, "FV has provided Shakespeare with the essential shape of Q" (138). The play's status as Shakespeare's source has not always been beneficial, however. Bullough's verdict that "nothing shows the splendour of [Shakespeare's] imaginative alchemy better than the handling of this decrepit pot-boiler" (4.168) is only an extreme example of the disparaging comparisons that have been constructed.

    If the impulse to assert Shakespeare's superior art is set aside, though, comparisons between the plays can be instructive. The plays represent Prince Henry (Prince Harry or Hal in Shakespeare) in subtly but significantly different ways, for example. The differences are perceptible from the outset. Both Famous Victories and 1 Henry IV commence with the prince involved in highway robbery. Famous Victories' Prince Henry directly participates, as the blows about the shoulders given him by one of the receivers testify. In 1 Henry IV, in contrast, Prince Harry does not directly participate in the robbery dramatized in 2.2 but, rather, turns it into an opportunity to demonstrate Falstaff's cowardice. Moreover, while Prince Henry determines to spend the thousand pounds he and his companions have taken, Prince Harry resolves that "The money shall be paid back again, with advantage" (TLN 1515-1516 [[ edition links should not have query or fragment parts ]]). "The difference," Clare remarks, "is that Hal in 1 Henry IV is willing to take pleasure in the subordination of order and yet cunning enough to avoid directly inculpating himself" (106). The difference in characterization discernible here, Clare argues, extends throughout Famous Victories and Shakespeare's plays. If Prince Henry begins as a vicious rogue only to be miraculously transformed into the virtuous king, then, according to Clare, "Hal's character is entirely consistent. Throughout the trilogy he is self-aware and self-questioning. It is evident that Hal is consciously acting out the role he chooses for himself while, later, he performs the role chosen for him" (108). It is not that Famous Victories' Henry is better or worse than Shakespeare's but, rather, that the latter consistently manifests an interior depth not often, if at all, visible in the former.

    In the history of early modern English drama the development of interior depth of character is, arguably, accompanied by a related curtailing of the freedom of the actor, especially the clown, and a comparison of Famous Victories' clown Derrick and Shakespeare's Falstaff is as revealing as the comparison between Prince Henry and Prince Harry (Gurr, Playgoing 132-3). Falstaff, named Sir John Oldcastle in the initial version of 1 Henry IV (Corbin and Sedge 9-12), is superficially an oversized development of Famous Victories' Jockey, whose full name is Sir John Oldcastle (TLN 490), one of the three companions (the others are Ned and Tom) whom Prince Henry chastises and repudiates upon coronation. Yet while Shakespeare may have borrowed Jockey's companion position and narrative trajectory for Falstaff, Jockey is a sketchily developed character, and to fill out his character Shakespeare necessarily turned elsewhere. D. B. Landt writes that "Some of the personal qualities and functions of old Ned Poins (as well as Oldcastle and Dericke) have been incorporated into Falstaff, concentrating the action and centralizing the import and dramatic effect of the rejection" (73), adding that Falstaff also takes over "some of the Prince's more disreputable qualities" (74). In his study Shakespeare's Clown, however, David Wiles suggests that Falstaff's major model is Derrick: "The role of Falstaff can be seen as an elaborate reworking of the role of Derrick" (119), Wiles contends.

    As clown types, Derrick and Falstaff have much in common, from their cowardice in combat to their metatheatricality (which Derrick demonstrates in his play-acting with John, and Falstaff in his play-acting with Prince Harry in 1 Henry IV 2.4). Weimann comments that "What the comedians behind the roles of Dericke and Falstaff perform is an enactment of their clowning selves through the mimesis of mimesis" (190), a performance of their actorly selves in laughter-producing tension with their character roles. Contemporary evidence of this kind of metatheatricality survives in an anecdote about the popular Queen's Men's clown Richard Tarlton's improvisations as Derrick during a performance of Famous Victories: "At the Bull at Bishophs-gate, was a play of Henry the fift, wherein the judge was to take a box on the eare; & because he was absent that should take the blowe, Tarlton himselfe, ever forward to please, tooke upon him to play the same judge, beside his owne part of the clowne: and Knel then playing Henry the fift, hit Tarlton a sounde boxe indeed, which made the people laugh the more, because it was he" (Bullough 4.289-90). No doubt the laughter continued when in the next scene Tarlton playing Derrick playing Prince Henry calls the actor playing John playing the Lord Chief Justice a "clown" for letting him strike him. "[T]he clown-as hero insistently defeats the efforts of those in authority to preserve the outer dressings of social stability" (201), remarks Peter Thomson, referring specifically to the composite image of Tarlton created by the collection of anecdotes, Tarlton's Jests (1611), from which this anecdote is taken. 1 Henry IV 5.4, in which Falstaff plays dead to escape being killed by the rebel Douglas at the Battle of Shrewsbury, might have afforded similarly metatheatrical performative possibilities for the clown who played Falstaff, Will Kemp.

    35In spite of the metatheatricality that they share as clown figures, however, Derrick and Falstaff differ significantly, in ways that at least partly reflect important developments in the Elizabethan theatre. Derrick is plebeian, a poor carrier and the victim of Prince Henry's abuse of his princely powers, while Falstaff is of gentle social status, a knight who hopes to profit from Prince Harry's abuse of that princely power. Derrick is recruited into the army; in 2 Henry IV, Falstaff is doing the recruiting. The laughter Derrick provokes is often socially critical. In contrast, the laughter Falstaff provokes is frequently ironic and self-reflexive, as when he defends his own character in the third person while play-acting with Prince Harry in 1 Henry IV 2.4 or debunks the notion of honor at the end of 5.1 of the same play. One might suggest, then, that when reworking Derrick into Falstaff Shakespeare exchanged some of the unruly, oppositional force of Derrick's clowning for greater depth of character. This would be consonant with Thomson's general claim that in the 1580s and 1590s "the threat of the act of acting was dampened by a shift in audience expectation, away from an admiration for the overwhelming performer towards an admiration for the subtle impersonator. Shakespeare's was the supreme contribution to this shift, since it was in his work that the dramatic 'character' most vividly emerged" (205), adding that "The ideology of character is implicitly conservative of the status quo" (205).

    Even so, although its dramatic technique is not as sophisticated as that of later dramatists such as Shakespeare, Famous Victories knows how effectively to employ the ideology of character, most conspicuously in its treatment of Henry's wooing of the French princess Katherine (Catherine in Henry V) in scenes nineteen and twenty-one. Shakespeare clearly modelled his dramatization of the wooing in Henry V on these scenes. The differences illustrate that the ideology of character need not always be conservative or, more precisely, that it can serve multiple, not necessarily reconcilable, conservatisms.

    Both plays represent the French princess as an object: a bargaining chip, and later part of the spoils of war. In scene nine of Famous Victories Charles VI attempts to buy out Henry's claims to the French crown with a package that includes "fifty thousand crowns a year with his daughter, the said Lady Katherine, in marriage" (TLN 901-902); in scene twenty-one she is the last "trifle" (TLN 1684) that the victorious Henry demands of the conquered French, although she is hardly a trifle given that only through her reproductive function is Henry able to secure the French crown for his heirs. In Henry V Henry is quite explicit about Catherine's political importance as an object: "She is our capital demand, comprised / Within the forerank of our articles"Internet Shakespeare EditionsTLN 3084-3085 (5.2.TLN 3084-3085), Henry tells the French Queen Isabeau.

    In both plays Henry adopts the pose of a rough, blunt, but sincere wooer. Telling Katherine to speak to him in "plain terms" (TLN 1513), Famous Victories' Henry states that "I cannot do as these countries do that spend half their time in wooing" (TLN 1515-1516). Likewise, Shakespeare's Henry tells Catherine "I speak to thee plain soldier"Internet Shakespeare EditionsTLN 3140 (5.2.TLN 3140) and asks her to "take a fellow of plain and uncoined constancy"Internet Shakespeare EditionsTLN 3143-3144(5.2.TLN 3143-3144). In both plays the princess resists Henry's proposal by calling Henry her father's enemy and, ultimately, deferring to the authority of her father (here we find in Shakespeare strong verbal echoes of the earlier play), thus acknowledging her own status as sexual and political object of exchange between men. Famous Victories' Katherine asks Henry "How should I love him that hath dealt so hardly with my father?" (TLN 1525-1526), later stating that she "must first know his [her father's] will" (TLN 1533) before she answers Henry's suit. Shakespeare's Catherine asks Henry "Is it possible dat I sould love de enemi of France?"Internet Shakespeare EditionsTLN 3159 (5.2.TLN 3159), later stating that she will marry Henry "as it shall please de roi mon père"Internet Shakespeare EditionsTLN 3236 (5.2.TLN 3236).

    Both plays, however, complicate, in different ways, this simple exchange scenario in the ways they create the dramatic illusion of depth in Henry's and Katherine's (Famous Victories) or Catherine's (Henry V) characters. Consistent with its use earlier in the play in scene eight when Prince Henry chides himself for not having visited his sickly father, in scene nineteen Famous Victories uses the soliloquy to harmonize Henry's political exterior and sexual interior, thus stressing his sincerity as Katherine's suitor. For a brief moment, after the nobles engaged in the political negotiations have exited the stage and before Katherine enters, Henry is alone on stage. The playwright takes this opportunity to give Henry a revelatory moment of self-address: "Ah Harry, thrice-unhappy Harry! Hast thou now conquered the French king and begin'st a fresh supply with his daughter? But with what face canst thou seek to gain her love, which hath sought to win her father's crown? 'Her father's crown,' said I? No, it is mine own. Ay, but I love her and must crave her. Nay, I love her and will have her" (TLN 1491-1499). The exterior and the interior, the political and the sexual, are aligned in Henry's character: if marriage with Katherine is Henry's political objective, Katherine herself is object of Henry's erotic desire; just as Henry is a bold warrior, so too he is a brash wooer. In Henry V, however, no such aside or soliloquy signals the sincerity of Henry's desire for Catherine, and the wooing scene provides a number of indications--such as Henry's obviously feigned inability to understand French (see 5.2.TLN 3101-3110 and 3168-3182, in which is it is clear that Henry does not need Alice to interpret)--that in his role as plain-speaking suitor Henry is merely continuing the performative self-fashioning in which, as we have seen, he has been engaged from the beginning of 1 Henry IV.

    40Similarly, Famous Victories foregrounds Katherine's political agency, only to set it in tension with her secret erotic desire. Katherine enters scene nineteen as her father's political emissary: "my father sent me to know if you will debate any of these unreasonable demands which you require" (TLN 1504-1505), she tells Henry. She frankly wields her sexuality as a political weapon: "I would to God that I had your majesty as fast in love as you have my father in wars. I would not vouchsafe so much as one look until you had debated all these unreasonable demands" (TLN 1519-1522), she exclaims. Yet concealed by and in conflict with her intense politicization of the sexual is, Famous Victories reveals, Katherine's romantic attraction to Henry: "I may think myself the happiest in the world, that is beloved of the mighty king of England" (TLN 1539-1540), she declares in an aside after speaking to Henry the expertly balanced equivocation that "Whereas I can put your grace in no assurance, I would be loath to put you in any despair" (TLN 1535-1536). This conflict in Katherine's character between the political and sexual is, of course, reconciled in the concluding marriage agreement, in which Katherine can simultaneously acquiesce to the political demands of the situation and get what she wants sexually. Being commanded by her father to "Agree to it [the marriage]" (TLN 1964), Katherine comments in an aside that "I had best while he is willing, lest when I would, he will not" (TLN 1695-1696); then, addressing the assembly of nobles, she states simply that "I rest at your majesty's command" (TLN 1697). Oberer contends that the interaction between Henry and Katherine in scene nineteen "is about mutual capitulation; the audience is invited to believe that their marriage will be a partnership of equals, since Katherine and Henry both show an expertise in manipulation" (175). Here at the conclusion of the play's final scene the audience is invited to believe in a romanticized mutuality that both reinforces and obfuscates the harsh framing realities of political and gender domination.

    In contrast, like Isabella's feelings for Duke Vincentio at the end of Measure for Measure, Catherine's "true" feelings for Henry at the end of Henry V remain opaque. Catherine might seem more passive than her counterpart in Famous Victories insofar as she does not actively participate in the political negotiations by attempting to use her sexuality to extract political compromises from her conqueror. She resists Henry's advances by pretending not to understand him, by drawing attention to the potentially deceitful and insincere nature of Henry's rhetoric, and by insisting on her status as political object without agency. "I cannot tell"Internet Shakespeare EditionsTLN 3182 (5.2.TLN 3182), is frequently her short deflationary reply to Henry's extended efforts of verbal love-making; early on in the dialogue she tells Henry that "les langues des hommes sont pleines de trumperies"Internet Shakespeare EditionsTLN 3106 (5.2.TLN 3106); at the end of their dialogue she tells Henry that she will be his bride "as it shall please de roi mon père"TLN 3236 [[ edition links should not have query or fragment parts ]] (5.2.TLN 3236). Perhaps understanding the legitimating ideological function of romanticized sexuality, Shakespeare's Henry would like his Catherine to possess the interior of Famous Victories' Katherine: "Come, I know thou lovest me"Internet Shakespeare EditionsTLN 3185-3186 (5.2.TLN 3185-3186), he fantasizes, "and at night when you come into your closet you'll question this gentlewoman about me; and I know, Kate, you will to her dispraise those parts in me that you love with your heart"Internet Shakespeare EditionsTLN 3186-3189 (5.2.TLN 3186-3189). But Catherine refuses to embody an imaginary resolution to the real contradiction between the political and the sexual with which this play culminates, and Henry's fantasy recalls to the audience the scene earlier in the play in which it does see Catherine in her closet: knowing that "Il faut que j'apprenne à parler" (Internet Shakespeare EditionsTLN 1325). English, in 3.4 Catherine is taught by Alice the English names for various body parts; she halts the lesson when the sexual double-entendres of her mispronunciations far too precisely name what her own translation into an English queen will mean: "Lefoot et lecount? O Seigneur Dieu, ils sont les mots de son mauvais, corruptible, gros, et impudique, et non pour les dames d'honneur d'user [Fuck and cunt? Oh my God! They are foul words, corrupting, rude, and impudent, and not to be used by ladies of honour]" (Internet Shakespeare EditionsTLN 3169-3170).

    Famous Victories and Modern Performance

    Until 2006, when Famous Victories along with two other Queen's Men plays, King Leir and Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, were performed as part of the "Shakespeare and the Queen's Men" research project at various venues in Toronto and Hamilton, including a student bar and a club (Cockett 229, 239), the inn yards, great halls, town halls, church houses, and public theatres that were Famous Victories' early modern performance venues (McMillin and MacLean 67-83) remained its only ones. Although, according to director Peter Cockett, "it was extremely important to our research team that we separate ourselves from the essentialism" (229) of "what is often categorized as 'original practice' production" (229), the SQM team attempted to approximate the original Queen's Men troupe size and organization of fourteen male actors (three boys) (McMillin and MacLean 108) led by master actors (Cockett 230-31), employed a repertory method of rehearsal (235-38), and, at the Toronto club venue at least, tried "to approximate an Elizabethan inn-yard" (239). The performance notes to this edition, written by Cockett with reference to the 2006 performances, simultaneously allow readers to imagine Famous Victories as it might have been performed in the early modern period and encourage them to think of the play as living theatre. Indeed, Cockett's account of the performances at the Hamilton bar and the Toronto club extends Champion's contention, quoted earlier in this introduction, that the audience may not take away from Famous Victories any single, coherent perspective on the characters and events it dramatizes. If the performance in the Hamilton bar "was a rambunctious, dynamic, and highly patriotic/nationalistic version of the life of King Henry V" (239), then the Toronto club performance produced "a laughter that acknowledged the extremity of the nationalism in the play and enjoyed it in a manner that verged on parody . . . [T]he audience laughed at the nationalist sentiment and the play's propagandistic stereotyping" (240). As living theatre, then, the play further multiplies (and destabilizes) the perspectives it offers, each performance exploiting the play's performance possibilities differently to create a different take on the famous victories of Henry the Fifth.