Be in their flowing cups
Though embedded within their historical narratives, both speeches explain
future ritual repetitions with reference to the tale that is about to unfold.
And when your children
ask you what service is this you keep?
Then ye shall say, it
is the sacrifice of the Lord's passover which
passed over the houses
of the children of Israel in Egypt when
he smote the Egyptians
and preserved our houses. Then the
people bowed themselves
And Henry commands,
This story shall the good
man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall
ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending
of the world,
But in it we shall be
Such breaks of the narrative
frame--endlessly repeated in the Biblical accounts of the Exodus--anticipate
what is to come, both within the stories themselves and in their later reception.
The anticipatory breaks
in Biblical and Shakespearean epics of holy war have complex functions. They
recursively include readers and auditors as participants in past actions while
at the same time instructing them how to make those actions come to pass in
the present and stay alive in the future through imaginative reenactment. These
functions are shared by Shakespeare's Chorus in its urgent direct addresses
to the audience.34 The
Chorus insists that collaboration between author and auditor 'in the quick forge
and working house of thought' (5.0.23) is required to make the illusion real,
thereby producing stronger belief, but also acknowledging the fictive nature
of the history. The audience is thus both partaker and participant in the Mysteries
of State that are enacted in the play. As opposed to the peasant slave whose
'gross brain little wots / What watch the king keeps to maintain the peace'
(4.1.282-3), the 'discerning' reader of both the Bible and of Shakespeare is
in on the secret and can share with Harry the power and the guilt of the holy
1 '"Vile Participation': The Amplification of Violence in the Theatre
of Henry V', Shakespeare Quarterly, 42:1 (Spring 1991), 2-32;
2 Citations in this essay are from The Geneva Bible: A Facsimile of
the 1560 Edition with an introduction by Lloyd E. Berry (Madison WI, 1969).
I have modernized spelling.
3 Referred to by Matthew (26.30) and Mark (14.26) as 'The Passover Hymn'.
4 Holinshed, Raphael, et. al. The Chronicles of England, Scotland,
and Ireland. 3 vols. in 2, 1587; ed. H. Ellis, 6 vols., 1807-8. p. 555,
reprinted in Shakespeare's Holinshed, ed. Richard Hosley (New York, 1968),
5 See Gerhard von Rad, 'The Form-Critical Problem of the Hexateuch',
in The Problem of the Hexateuch and Other Essays (New York, 1966), pp.
1-78, also Martin Noth, The History of Israel (New York, 1960), and G.E.
Mendenhall, The Tenth Generation, The Origins of the Biblical Tradition
6 Phyllis Rackin, Stages of History: Shakespeare's English Chronicles
(Ithaca, 1990), p. 30.
7 G. Blakemore Evans, editor, The Riverside Shakespeare (Boston
1974). All later references to this edition.
8 Much attention has been paid to Biblical references in Shakespeare,
most recently in a three volume series, Biblical References in Shakespeare's
Comedies, Biblical References in Shakespeare's Tragedies and Biblical
References in Shakespeare's Histories, by Naseeb Shaheen published by the
University of Delaware Press. But very little scholarly study is available on
the literary relationships between Biblical and Shakespearean works. One notable
exception is an address by James Black entitled '"Edified by the Margent': Shakespeare
and the Bible," issued by the University of Alberta Press. I have yet to find
a scholarly treatment of the manifold connections between Biblical and Shakespearean
historiography and politics.
9 See Patrick D.Miller, The Divine Warrior in Early Israel (Cambridge
MA 1973), pp. 154-5. In Yahweh Is a Warrior: The Theology of Warfare in Ancient
Israel (Herald Press, Scottdale PA, 1989), Millard Lind points out that
the identification God, king and general was a common ancient near east convention,
as witnessed in a proclamation by Assurbanipal, King of the Assyrian empire
'Not by my own power / not by the strength of my bow / by the power of my gods,
/ by the strength of my goddesses / I subjected the lands to the yoke of Assur'.
10 Miller, p. 156.
11 'When thou comest near unto a city to fight against it, thou shalt
offer it peace. And if it answer thee again peaceably and open unto thee, then
let all the people that is found therein, be tributaries unto thee and serve
thee. But if it will make no peace with thee...thou shalt smite all the males
thereof with the edge of the sword'. (Deuteronomy
12 See Roland Bainton, Christian Attitudes toward War and Peace: A
Historical Survey and Critical Re-evaluation (Nashville, 1960), pp.44-50
and David Little, '"Holy War" Appeals and Western Christianity: A Reconsideration
of Bainton's Approach', in Just War and Jihad, ed. John Kelsay and James
Turner Johnson (New York,1991), pp.121-141.
13 'Invisible Bullets: Renaissance Authority and its Subversion in Henry
IV and Henry V'. In Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural
Materialism, ed. Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield (New York, 1985),
14 D. I.12.3, p. 244. Citations of Machiavelli as follows: D=Leslie J.
Walker trans. and ed., The Discourses of Niccolo Machiavelli, 2 vols.
(London, 1950); P=The Prince, A New Translation with an Introduction
by Harvey C. Mansfield Jr. (Chicago, 1985).
15 'On the Continuity of the Henriad'. In Shakespeare Left and Right,
ed. Ivo Kamps (London and Boston, 1991), p. 229.
16 For a discussion of the ways conflicting perspectives and attitudes
are juxtaposed in Shakespearean texts, see Louis Adrian Montrose, 'The Purpose
of Playing: Reflections on Shakespearean Anthropology', Helios, n.s.7
(1980):50- 73. For a discussion of the debate between pacifist and militarist
politics in Henry V, see Steven Marx, 'Shakespeare's Pacifism', RQ
45, Spring 1992.
17 See W. Lee Humphries, Crisis and Story: An Introduction to the
Old Testament (Mt. View CA, 1991), pp. 50-53, 120-121 and Baruch Halpern,
The First Historians: the Hebrew Bible and History, (San Francisco, 1988).
18 David Scott Kastan, '"The King Hath Many Marching in his Coats", or
What Did You do in the War, Daddy.' In Shakespeare Left and Right, ed.
Ivo Kamps (London and Boston, 1991), p. 256.
19 D. I.10.1, p.236.
20 P. XVII, p. 65-66.
21 D. III.30.4, p. 547.
22 'Reprehensible actions may be justified by their effects...when the
effect is good, ...it always justifies the action...I might adduce in support
of what I have just said numberless examples, e.g. Moses, Lycurgus, Solon, and
other founders of kingdoms and republics...' D. I.9.2-5, p. 235.
23 P. XVIII, p.69-70.
24 D. I,11, p.237.
25 'It was owing to wise men having taken note of this that belief in
miracles arose and that miracles are held in high esteem even by religions that
are false; for to whatever they owed their origin, sensible men made much of
them and their authority caused everybody to believe in them.' D.I.12.3, p.
26 Only Michael Williams resists this form of Revelation trick. After
the battle, when Henry tries to elicit his awe, repentance and gratitude by
disclosing that the 'gentleman of a company' to whom Williams had expressed
disbelief in the King was actually the King himself, Williams is not impressed.
27 D. II.2.6-7, p.364.
28 P. XXV, pp. 98-101 ('Fortuna'); Martelli Tutti gli opera p.
626 cited by Anthony J. Parel, The Machiavellian Cosmos (New Haven,
1992), pp.57, 56 ('Heaven'); D. II.29.1, p.444-5 ('Lover of strong men').
29 Peter Donaldson, Machiavelli and the Mystery of State (New
York, 1988). In his final chapter, 'Biblical Machiavellism: Louis Machon's Apologie
pour Machiavel', Donaldson unearths and analyzes an obscure seventeenth
century reading of Machiavelli and the Bible. A work of close to 800 pages commissioned
by Cardinal Richelieu, it defends those passages in The Discourses and
The Prince most often attacked for impiety. 'One may cease to be surprised',
says Machon, 'that I draw parallels between Holy Scripture and the works of
Machiavelli and that I propose that his strongest and most formidable maxims
were drawn from the book of books...if one considers that this sacred volume,
which should be the study and meditation of all true Christians, teaches princes
as well as subjects...' 1668 preface, pp. 1-2, trans. and cited by Donaldson,
30 Donaldson, p. 172.
31 James Aho, Religious Mythology and the Art of War: Comparative
Religious Symbolisms of Military Violence (Westport CT, 1981), p. 146.
32 Donaldson, pp. 215-216 summarizing and citing Machon 1668, p.778.
33 Machon 640-1, cited by Donaldson, p. 200.
34 As Altman says, he 'extends the [participatory] relationship of prince
and subject as portrayed in [Henry V] so that it becomes a relationship
between player/king and audience/subject...' p. 15.
35 Both Greenblatt and Altman have drawn attention to some alarming implications
of these converging suspensions of disbelief: '...the first part of HIV
enables us to feel....we are..testing dark thoughts without damaging the order
that those thoughts would seem to threaten. The second part of HIV suggests
that we are ... compelled to pay homage to a system of beliefs whose fraudulence
somehow only confirms their power, authenticity and truth. The concluding play
in the series, HV, insists that we have all along been both colonizer
and colonized, king and subject'. Greenblatt, p.42. '...amplification ambiguously
reassuring and threatening, which offers up ../images of rational accessiblity
juxtaposed with those of imperial closure...revelation and mystification, both
the articulated and concealed forms--the exquisition of causes, of effects,
and of parallels, the emblems and personifications--fill the imagination only
to make more illustrious Harry's darkly enigmatic nature. One must always feel
anxious about such a king, since one can never fully possess him....From dim
and unexpected places he will make claims upon one's mind and body that cannot
be eluded'. Altman, p. 24. I believe the mentally colonizing rhetorical strategies
discovered by the these scholars are modelled in the history of the Bible.