The fullest identification
between Henry, James, Shakespeare and the ideal of peace occurs at the end of
the play in Cranmer's prophecy. It links the king through his newborn daughter,
Elizabeth Tudor, to his descendant, James I, and claims for the past, present
and future of their dynasty James' own personal motto: Beati Pacifici-- Blessed
are the Peacemakers:
In her days every man
shall eat in safety
Under his own vine what he plants, and sing
The merry songs of peace to all his neighbors...
So shall she leave her blessedness to one...
Who from the sacred ashes of her honor
Shall star-like rise, as great in fame as she was
And so stand fixed. Peace, plenty love truth , terror
That were the servants to this chosen infant,
shall then be his and like a vine grow to him...
...our children's children
shall see this and bless heaven." (5.5.33-54)
These words offer their
listeners what Henry calls an "oracle of comfort." Cranmer's message to the
future, echoing the central prophecies of Isaiah and Vergil, ring as the last
words left to us by Shakespeare.111
Pro and anti war positions were not categorized as "isms" or labelled as "militarist"
and "pacifist" until the later nineteenth century, but Renaissance writers used
the contrary adjectives "martial" and "irenic" (after Eirene, the Greek goddess
of Peace and Prosperity) to convey the meanings of "war loving" and "peace loving."
I use the term "militarism" to cover a variety of attitudes affirming war as
a cultural institution and the use of organized violence as an instrument of
state power. As is indicated later, different militaristic attitudes can be
mutually contradictory as well as supportive. "Pacifism" is also an umbrella
term. In general, it denotes hostility to war and to the profession of soldier
and a desire for peace. But varieties of pacifism range from strict non-violence
on absolute religious principles to an acceptance of military action for defensive
purposes as a last resort. See note 47 below and Cady. For extensive primary
evidence of the existence of pacifism in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries,
see Swinne .
See Adams, Dust, and Tracy.
treatment of war and peace has been studied by Bevington, L. Campbell, and Jorgensen.
But neither they nor more recent students of Shakespeare's Jacobean politics
link his pacifism to the Erasmian tradition. See Goldberg, Marcus, Tennenhouse,
and Yates. Woodbridge's brief but trenchant discussions of "'masculine' wartime
values and 'feminine' peacetime values" on 160-170 and in her unpublished essay,
"Palisading the Body Politic," is to my knowledge the only commentary that treats
Shakespeare's shift to pacifism as both politically and dramatically significant.
Howard, l986 1-17.
Walter Ralegh, Works, VIII, 293, translating Machiavelli's Discourses , cited
by Jorgensen, 181.
Greville, Caelica 108, cited by Jorgensen, 185.
You Like It, 2.7.149-153.
traditional view--propounded in Shakespeare's Henry VIII--that Wolsey pursued
peace primarily to further his personal ambitions to become Pope and that he
was responsible for torpedoing the alliance between Henry and Francis has been
challenged by Crowson, who shows evidence that like Thomas More, Wolsey was
compelled by the King to support the militaristic policies the Cardinal had
Hale, l985, 40-41.
Idem. 1974, 4.
See Hutton and Johnson.
Chapiro, 66. This book contains Chapiro's translation of Erasmus' Querela Pacis,
entitled "Peace Protests," along with an essay on Erasmus' political backgrounds
and on the modern applicability of Erasmus' texts. The book is dedicated to
"The United Nations, Embodiment of the ideals of Erasmus and source of the highest
hopes of our times," and its jacket cover includes a tribute by Thomas Mann.
The book typifies a perennial rediscovery and revival of Erasmus' political
writings by antiwar propagandists.
31. Adams, 65.
See Bruckner and Chwast.
Bataillon, 669 ff.
The Second Part of Tamburlaine The Great (4.1.1-170) .
by A. C. Wood .
Campbell, 265ff. and Johnson, 162ff.
In Bullen 8:328.
James' regime has elicited remarkably hostile responses from modern historians
and critics. Maurice Lee repeats the standard comparison between James and Neville
Chamberlain as "appeasers" (16). However, despite his quirks and limitations,
James was neither cowardly nor incompetent. Rather than gain territory, his
goal was to bring peace to Britain and Europe. The fact that this goal was not
permanently achieved should not obscure his signal successes. Lee himself shows
how adroitly he managed to negotiate an alliance with Spain, avoid confrontation
with Spain's enemy France, and provide limited support to the rebels in the
Netherlands. This policy strengthened England's international position, confounded
her antagonists, kept her out of war, and enhanced his reputation throughout
Europe. While much can be made of the contrast between Erasmus' politics-- which
sought to limit royal prerogatives and deplored autocratic pretensions-- and
James' theory of Divine Right and his "style of the gods" in ruling, their scholarly,
devotional and peace-oriented outlooks shared much in common.
larger question of the validity of pacifism in general cannot be adequately
considered here. Three parallel studies of its evolution and role in European
history--the first two sympathetic, the third hostile-- are Johnson's and Brock's
and Howard's (1978). It may be appropriate to briefly consider some of Howard's
more telling critiques insofar as they are relevant to the present discussion.
He identifies pacifism with "Liberalism" and claims that modern European history
is dominated by the struggle between Liberal and "Traditional" approaches to
war and peace. Rejecting the existing war system, the liberal searches for higher
standards of international conduct and an alternative system of collective security.
The "traditional" approach, affiliated with Clausewitz, Metternich and Machiavelli,
accepts international hostility as a norm, war as the inevitable extension of
politics, and a balance of power as the closest possible facsimile to peace.
Howard calls the history of pacifism, "The melancholy story of the efforts of
good men to abolish war but only succeeding thereby in making it more terrible"(130).
Its essential fallacy, he says, is "the habit, far older even than Erasmus,
of seeing war as a distinct and abstract entity about which one can generalise
at large." Instead, he claims, "... war is simply a generic term for the use
of armed force by states or aspirants to statehood for the attainment of their
political objectives"(133). Howard's definitions and first principles are vulnerable
to several critiques. He explodes the concept of "war," which to many is a clear,
distinct, and morally charged idea, into a mere generic term, and elevates "States
or aspirants to statehood," a more slippery, context- bound, and morally questionable
notion, into an absolute. He offers no justification for believing that raisons
d'etat --the claims of any given state perceived by its ruler at any given time--necessarily
outweigh universal humanitarian claims. He also fails to acknowledge that many
pacifists or "liberals," including Erasmus and More, accept the use of military
force in some circumstances while at the same time opposing war in general rather
than perceiving it as a morally neutral and indistiguishable extension of other
means to achieve political ends.
Her tutor, Roger Ascham, attacks "books of Chivalry...the whole pleasure of
which...standeth in two special points, in open manslaughter and bold bawdry"
(cited by Adams, 223).
by Jorgensen, 220.
by Neale, 308-309.
From John Nichols's reprint in The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen
Elizabeth (London: John Nichols, 1823), 2: 545- 82, cited by Marcus, 63.
Herbert uses "hawk" and "dove" in this metaphorical sense. See Hovey, 118.
See Johnson, 130; Howard 1986, 13.
by Hale 1985, 23.
See Gurr, 72.
Rabkin, 33-62. Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield also hold that the position
of the play is indeterminate, reflecting the difficulties of maintaining ideological
consistency: "There may be no way of resolving whether one, or which one of
these tendencies (unity versus divergencies) overrides the other in a particular
play, but in a sense it does not matter: there is here an indeterminacy which
alerts us to the complex but always significant process of theatrical representation
and, through that, of political and social process." (l985), 215.
Greenblatt, 1985, 18-47.
another reading of Troilus and Cressida as antichivalric satire, see Ferguson,
9-11. This idea is provocatively elaborated by Scarry: "The dispute that leads
to the war involves a process by which each side calls into question the legitimacy
and thereby erodes the reality of the other country's issues, beliefs, ideas,
self conception. Dispute leads relentlessly to war not only because war is an
extension and intensification of dispute but because it is a correction and
reversal of it. That is the injuring not only provides a means of choosing between
disputants but also provides, by its massive opening of human bodies, a way
of reconnecting the derealized and disembodied beliefs with the force and power
of the material world. ... It is when a country has become to its population
a fiction that wars begin."128-131.
Complaint of Peace, 182.
Norman Council concludes his study of the idea of honor in Troilus and Cressida
with a similar formulation: "His destruction, of course, is demanded by the
legend, but Shakespeare justifies it by making Hector a part...of this frustrating
world in which men create their own standards of value only to become slaves
to that creation." 86.
England's "Natural Enemy" is Oliver Cromwell's term for Spain (Wernham, 1).
Cervantes' novel ridicules the miles gloriusus whose "reckless fanaticism" in
the words of Bryant Creel, "can be seen to represent the universal human tendency,
whether of individuals or of states, to attempt to render their own internal
failings less conspicuous by denouncing and even persecuting an external element
as the 'enemy,' the success of the deceit or self-deceit being proportionate
to the degree of the self-righteousness of the attacker." 44. On Erasmus' influence
on Cervantes see Bataillon, 777-801.
Women and the English Renaissance , 166.
by Jorgensen, 203-4.
See Wright, 149-171. This article, published during WWII, nicely contextualizes
itself: "If recent cliches of international politics like 'fifth columnist,'
'collaborationist,' and 'appeaser' were unkown to the seventeenth century, conditions
like those which brought forth the words nevertheless iststed, and all England
rang with warnings of the disasters believed certain to follow in the wake of
the King's stubborn and unpopular foreign policy, which sought at any price,
to conciliate Spain." (149)
lines 397-413 in 5: 335. See also Council (1980), 259-95.
cited by Oscar Campbell, 1970, 26.
orig. edition 1931, 157-171.
Cited by Barton, 123-4.
Council, "Ben Jonson," 271.
O. Campbell: "...[Shakespeare] mocks and ridicules him [Coriolanus] to the end."
"Shakespeare's Satire," 26.
Aufidius' aside at 5.3.202.
101. Adelman, 144.
102. Jonathan Dollimore (1989) also offers a cynical interpretation of
the ending: "before peace stands a chance of ratification, Coriolanus. is killed.
The two main political conflicts which open the play--patrician against plebian,
Romans against Volscians--remain" (222). But it is clear that without Coriolanus,
the Volsicans will not succeed in continuing their offensive. This reading ignores
the class reconciliation in 5.4 and 5.5. See Barton: "Coriolanus is a tragedy
in that its protagonist does finally learn certain necessary truths about the
world in which he exists, but dies before he has any chance to rebuild his life
in accordance with them. Paradoxically, it is only in his belated recognition
and acceptance of historical change, of that right of the commons to be taken
seriously which the other members of his class in Rome have already conceded,
that he achieves genuinely tragic individuality"(145).
a brief discussion of the authorship controversy, see Samuel Schoenbaum, "Introduction"
Tennenhouse, 1985, 109-30. Tennenhouse contrasts the strategies of HV and HVIII
as follows: "Here [HV] history is nothing else but the history of forms of disorder,
over which Henry can temporarily triumph because he alone embodies the contradictions
that can bring disruptions into the service of the state and make a discontinuous
political process appear as a coherent moment....Henry VIII need not struggle
with his opponents because they possess no power except that which he confers
on them" (120-124).
mentioned earlier, most modern historians believe that it was Wolsey who was
the pacifist, who tried to make peace both with France and Spain, and who was
betrayed by the militaristic machinations of the real Henry VIII. Shakespeare's
imaginary Henry here acts precisely in the manner that Thomas More's imaginary
Hythloday had recommended to the real Henry VIII, disguised in More's text as
the French King: "Hythloday: Now in a meeting like this one, where so much is
at stake, where so many brilliant men are competing to think up intricate strategies
of war, what if an insignificant fellow like myself were to get up and advise
going on another tack entirely? Suppose I said the king should leave Italy alone
and stay home...suppose I told the French king's council that all this war-mongering,
by which so many different nations were kept in social turmoil as a result of
royal connivings and schemings, would certainly exhaust his treasury and demoralize
his people, and yet very probably in the end come to nothing...And therefore
I would advise the French king to look after his ancestral kingdom, improve
it as much as he could, cultivate it every conceivable way. He should love his
people and be loved by them; he should live among them, and govern them kindly,
and let other kingdoms alone, since his own is big enough, if not too big for
Knight, 1958, 85.
1958, made a similar observation about the resonance of Cranmer's prophecy:
"...Shakespeare obeys a fundamental law of the human imagination with analogies
in Isaiah, Vergil and Christianity...the massive play ends with the christening
ceremony of the baby Elizabeth, over whom Cranmer speaks the final prophecy,
Shakespeare's last word to his countrymen..." (85). Knight takes this "last
word" to be "as fine a statement as we shall find in any literature of that
peace which the world craves and for which Great Britain labours." Earlier versions
of the same essay appeared in 1944 and 1940, when, in a work entitled This Sceptered
Isle , Knight presented Cranmer's prophecy as a formulation of England's war
aims: "England has for centuries been at work, consciously and unconsciously,
to establish more than a national order. Her empire has already spread beyond
the seas, this little island expanding and sending out her sons to make those
'new nations' of which Shakespeare's Cranmer so prophetically speaks...one feels
a shadowing, a rough forecast, of the sovereign part to be played by theEnglish-speaking
nations in establishment of world-justice, world-order, and world-peace." And
in 1982, in a collection of essays entitled Authors Take Sides on the Falklands,
[Cited by Hawkes, 68.] Knight still further modified and yet reaffirmed this
reading: "Our key throughout is Cranmer's royal prophecy at the conclusion of
Shakespeare's last play Henry VIII, Shakespeare's final words to his countrymen.
This I still hold to be our one authoritative statement, every world deeply
significant, as forecast of the world-order at which we should aim." Knight's
superimposition of pacifism with royalism, imperialism, and cultural chauvinism
amplifies the ironies in Shakespeare's depiction of Henry VIII as a Jacobean
prince of peace.