Rather than react to this news with a twenty-first century mindset, however, it is important that we adjust our approach to originality and authorship to a sixteenth century mindset. In much the same way that contemporary film-makers, novelists, and dramatists use Shakespeare as inspiration for their own works, Shakespeare more than likely used earlier texts like histories, contemporaneous plays, poetry, and music, among other items, to construct plots that would remain familiar to his audiences, even as he redeveloped characters, their relationships, and generated lyrical and verbally rich language.
Shakespeare’s The History of Henry V – Shakespeare’s history play completing the Henriad tetralogy (comprising Richard II, Henry IV pts. 1 and 2, and Henry V) and describing the events of Henry V’s rule leading up to the Battle of Agincourt – demonstrates this renegotiation of sources. Here, readers must negotiate three levels of fact: reconciling historical fact to the version of history remembered by the English and again to the version given by Shakespeare. This chapter foregrounds those sources that scholars speculate make up the middle tier of this negotiation of fact: those items that were part of the cultural zeitgeist in Shakespeare’s time and that might have influenced Shakespeare’s writing of the play.