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Other Sources: Drama and Music
Page Six Audio File
Of course, Shakespeare’s texts do not exist in a theatrical vacuum, and the surrounding texts being entered into the Register at the same time provide potential sources for Shakespeare’s text. One such play is the anonymous 1598 The Famovs Victories of Henry the fifth: Containing the Honourable Battel of Agin-court, often simply abbreviated to Famous Victories (FV). Printer Thomas Creede entered FV into the Station’s Register in 1594, but it had been clearly written much earlier than this. More than likely written for the Queen’s Men, this play should not be seen as a proto-Henry V, implying a subordinate status to the play. The play, which can be read in a modernized version from the Queen’s Men Editions, includes humor, an analysis critique of gendered roles, and a tempered critique of Henry V himself. The issues of class present in Shakespeare’s Henry V are also included in the earlier text. Video recordings are also available on the Queen’s Men site.
Could this text, then, be an early Shakespearean draft? Some critics think not. Scholars such as Andrew Gurr, however, have argued, as Gurr does in the appendix to the New Cambridge Edition of Henry V, that Shakespeare’s company could have performed the play in the mid-1590s, thus bringing about Shakespeare’s familiarity with the Famous Victories text.
If this anonymous play has piqued your interest, a full bibliography detailing and production bibliography for the play can be found from the Queen’s Men Editions and more information is available from Internet Shakespeare Editions.
In the same vein as propaganda or protest plays, music of the fourteenth and fifteenth century recounts a similar story. “Deo gratias Anglia,” or, “Give thanks, England” recounts the Battle of Agincourt from a fairly contemporary viewpoint. Known as the Agincourt Hymn, the carol or hymn recounts the battle progress. The music can be found in the Trinity Carol Roll held at Trinity College, Cambridge (MS O.3.58). A facsimile of the Agincourt Hymn can be found above, as copied from Maitland’s text, English Carols of the Fifteenth Century.
This hymn was written after the battle itself, after 1415, and recounts the battle as it would have been described contemporaneously. The song has been covered by numerous early music ensembles, but the link provided uses the 2012 edition by choral group Alamire.
The hymn begins at the start of Henry’s move towards France:
Owre Kynge went forth to Normandy
With grace and myght of chyvalry
Ther God for hym wrought mervelusly;
(Our King went forth to Normandy
With grace and might of chivalry
There God for him wrought marvelously
eventually coming to his performance in the battle at Agincourt, where the lyrics state:
Then went hym forth, owre king comely,
In Agincourt feld he faught manly;
Throw grace of God most marvelsuly,
He had both feld and victory.
(Then went him forth, our comely King
In Agincourt’s field, he fought manly
Through grace of God [he] most marvelously
Had both field and victory).
In these lyrics, a reader may see the focus on Henry’s manliness and command of the field at Agincourt. The musical setting reminds listeners – a contemporary English audience – that Henry’s behavior at Harfleur was that of potential violence: “That toune he wan and made a fray,/That Fraunce shall rewe tyl domesday” (That town he won and made a fray/That France shall rue until doomsday). This song’s view of Henry as King and conqueror also further extends to language of fear, of doomsday, and of destruction. Could we see hints of this Henry in Shakespeare’s text?