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4. The Role of the Chorus
About this Lecture
In this module, we move from the historical Henry V to Shakespeare's play, thinking in particular about the role of the Chorus and the role of ' imaginary puissance' in the play.
In this course, Professor John Roe (University of York) explores Shakespeare's Henry V. The course begins with a brief introduction to the play as the fourth and final instalment in Shakespeare's second great tetralogy, before moving on in the second and third modules to discuss the historical Henry V – not quite the prodigal son depicted in Shakespeare's Henry IV Parts I and II – and his military campaign in France in the late summer/early autumn of 1415 – culminating in his stunning victory over the French at the Battle of Agincourt. After that, we turn to Shakespeare's play proper: in the fourth module, we think about the role of the Chorus in the play, focusing in particular on the importance of the audience's imagination in bringing the play to life ('Can this cockpit hold the vasty fields of France? or may we cram | Within this wooden O the very casques | That did affright the air at Agincourt?'), before moving on in the fifth module to think about the representation of the French in the play. In the sixth module, we think about the death of Falstaff, a character who never actually appears in Henry V, even if his presence can be felt throughout, before moving on in the seventh and eighth modules to think about the characters of Fluellen and Pistol and their reaction to Henry's order to execute the French prisoners-of-war ('Kill the poys and the luggage! 'tis expressly | against the law of arms'). In the ninth module, we return once more to the character of Falstaff and the comparison between King Henry and Alexander the Great, who killed his friend Cleitus in a drunken rage just as Henry has 'killed' Falstaff, before turning in the tenth and final module to the night-time conversation between the disguised Henry and three common soldiers – Court, Bates and Williams – 'a little touch of Harry in the night', as the Chorus puts it.
John Roe is a professor in Renaissance literature and a member of the Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies (CREMS) at the University of York. He took a BA (subsequently MA) in English Literature at the University of Cambridge and an MA and PhD in Comparative Literature at Harvard University. Comparative Literature, mainly English and Italian, has remained a keen interest, which shows principally in his monograph Shakespeare and Machiavelli. He has taught at York since 1973. Before that he taught at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, and at Harvard. During his time at York he has enjoyed long sojourns at universities in other countries, for example, at the University of the Saarland in Germany, at Kyoto University, Doshisha University, and Kobe Jogakuin, in Japan; and most recently a year as the visiting Gillespie Professor at the College of Wooster in Ohio.
Cite this Lecture
Roe, J. (2018, August 15). Shakespeare: Henry V - The Role of the Chorus [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://massolit.io/courses/shakespeare-henry-v/the-role-of-the-chorus
Roe, J. "Shakespeare: Henry V – The Role of the Chorus." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018, https://massolit.io/courses/shakespeare-henry-v/the-role-of-the-chorus