quarta-feira, março 02, 2016

Henry and Katherine: "Henry V" by William Shakespeare, A. L. Rowse


One of the scenes I like the less is the one between Henry and Katherine. This scene while funny and sweet has always felt a little strange to me. Henry has never seen, met or spoken to Katherine before then so how can he be so sure in admitting that he loves her? I mean even Romeo and Juliet, the poster children for impulsive relationships at least shared conversation and flirtation before solidifying their tragic love. And if we were going to cynically assume that this wooing scene is just another way of showing Henry's political genius as he can get his way through charm and manipulation as well as violence the motivation behind requesting time alone with her and wooing her at all would be pointless as he already has secured her as his capital demand with the French. There was no need to woo her at all. If anything he should have been working his manipulative charming side on the French king more since the tensions between the two countries will remain and lead to the events of Henry VI. Well, that's Shakespeare for you. Maybe Shakespeare wanted to have a little bit of romance even in a story about the violent occupation of French lands by an English tyrant. To be fair, it'd be much easier for Henry to marry someone who at least likes him a little bit and not just afraid of him. Plus, it added to the character of Henry being a virtuous prince that Shakespeare tried to create.


This scene and the St. Crispin's Day are quite the opposite. The horrible walk across the devastation of the battlefield and the wonderful and witty wooing of Princess Katherine of Valois. We really needed that to relax after those harrowing Agincourt scenes. All so lovely, every second. "Oh Kate,  nice customs curtsy to great kings", "Any more French will hang upon my tongue like a new married wife around her husband's neck, hardly to be  shook off". Was it Shakespeare's intention to balance the two extremes?

It is interesting to speculate how history might have changed had Henry V gotten a few more years. While British historians proclaim one of the greatest of monarchs, the French see him as slightly below Hitler as one of the greatest enemies of their country. As well they should, the English got battlefield glory, and the French buried battlefield dead as the 100 Years War was fought in their country. He died a couple of years older than that other conqueror Alexander the Great and had both of them lived who knows what they might have achieved.

NB: Does anyone else think Katherine's lady-in-waiting might fancy him a bit herself? Just a little!

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