QueenʼsMen Editions

About this text

  • 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    Not Peer Reviewed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

    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.