Henry V (1918) Yale/Notes
Prol. 11. cockpit. A pit or enclosure for the popular Elizabethan sport of cockfighting. The expression is not to be taken literally, but merely as part of Shakespeare's disparagement of his inadequate representation of the great events of King Henry's reign. The 'wooden O' of line 13 presumably refers to the Globe theatre, built in 1599. The Globe is thought to have been octagonal on the exterior, but the interior was probably circular.
Prol. 16. Attest. The 'crooked figure' that may stand for a million is probably the figure '1,' which was a very crooked figure as the Elizabethans wrote it.
Prol. 29. jumping o'er times. The action of the play covers a period of six years, from 1414 to 1420.
Prol. 32. Chorus. This term, an inheritance from the drama of Greece and Rome, is used by Shakespeare simply as a name by which to designate the speaker of his prologues; i.e., a single actor.
I. i. S. d. Bishops. The stage directions of the Folio do not discriminate between the titles of Archbishop and Bishop either here or in the second scene.
I. i. 46. Gordian knot. An oracle had declared that he who untied this famous knot, tied by King Gordius of Phrygia, should rule over Asia. Alexander the Great cut the knot with his sword, declaring that he was destined to fulfill the oracle.
I. i. 51. art. The word as used here means the application of theory to practice. King Henry, reversing the usual process, appears to have learned the theory of statesmanship from practical endeavor. This, the Archbishop says, is strange, in view of the frivolity of his earlier years.
I. i. 89. Edward. King Henry's claim to the French throne rested upon his descent from Philip IV of France. Henry's great-grandfather, Edward III of England, was the son of Isabella, daughter to Philip IV. Her three brothers died without male heirs. Upon the death of the third (Charles IV), Isabella claimed the French throne for her son Edward; but an assembly of French peers and barons barred the English king's claim, declaring that 'no woman, nor therefore her son, could in accordance with custom succeed to the monarchy of France.' Later the doctrine thus enunciated became known as the Salic law. (Cf. I. ii. 38.) The crown of France passed to a younger branch of the French royal family of Capet.
I. ii. 11. law Salique. The Salic law is stated, in Latin, in line 38 below. (See preceding note.)
I. ii. 57. four hundred one-and-twenty years. In giving this figure, Shakespeare has perpetuated a mistake in arithmetic made by Holinshed. Throughout this long historical lecture Shakespeare is following his source very closely.
I. ii. 69. Hugh Capet. First king of the family of Capet, who came to the throne in 987. The 'Lady Lingare' of line 74 appears to have been a totally fictitious personage. Ritson, commenting on this passage, says that 'these fictitious persons and pedigrees seem to have been devised by the English heralds.'
I. ii. 94. Than amply to imbar their crooked titles. This line has been variously interpreted according to the meaning attached to the word 'imbar.' It appears most reasonable to translate the word as 'to bar in' or 'to secure': The kings of France prefer to involve themselves in contradictions ('hide them in a net') rather than fully to secure their own titles by showing that although they are descended from the female, like King Henry, their claim is stronger than his.
I. ii. 120. May-morn of his youth. King Henry was twenty-six years old.
I. ii. 126. So hath your highness. 'Your highness hath indeed what they think and know you have.' (Malone.) The emphasis is upon hath.
I. ii. 266. chaces. The word is a technical expression from the old game of tennis, used of the second impact on the floor of a ball which the opponent had failed or declined to return. The value of the chace was determined by the nearness of the spot of impact to the end wall. If the opponent, on changing sides, could better the stroke by causing his ball to rebound nearer the wall, he scored the point; otherwise it was scored by the first player. Hence the word chaces came to be practically equivalent to 'points scored,' and Harry seems to use it figuratively in that sense in this passage.
I. ii. 270. living hence. On account of his 'addiction to courses vain' in his younger days, Henry lost his place at the royal council-table and became 'almost an alien to the hearts of all the court.' (Cf. Henry IV, Part 1, III. ii. 32 ff.) In that sense he might be said to have been living in exile from his native royalty.
II. Chor. 31, 32. Linger your patience on, etc. 'Extend your patience, and we will overcome the ordinary limitations of distance and produce a play by pressing widely separated events into a narrow compass.'
II. Chor. 41, 42. But, till . . . scene. The meaning is quite obvious here, in spite of the curiously perverted construction: 'We shall shift our scene to Southampton; but not until the king comes forth.'
II. i. 6. there shall be smiles. Probably Nym means that when the time is ripe, the quarrel shall end in good humor.
II. i. 11. there's an end. Nym's language is a patchwork of the current phrases of the day, which he uses without any particular regard to their relevancy: 'that's the certain of it,' 'that is my rest,' 'things must be as they may,' 'there must be conclusions,' etc.
II. i. 17. rest. A technical term in the old game of Primero, meaning 'stake' or 'wager.'
II. i. 18. that is the rendezvous of it. This is but one more of Nym's current phrases, and it is not necessary to suppose that it carries any more meaning than the others.
II. i. 44. Iceland dog. Obviously Pistol means this to be a very scathing term of abuse. There are frequent references, in early seventeenth-century books, to the shaggy, snappish dogs brought over from Iceland to serve as lap-dogs. Whether Pistol had in mind their unhandsome appearance or their evil temper is uncertain.
II. i. 57. Barbason. Nym, unimpressed by the sound and fury of Pistol's speech, assures him that he cannot dispose of him, as conjurers dealt with fiends, by uttering high-sounding words.
II. i. 77. hound of Crete. Although some editors believe that Pistol means to imply that Nym is as bloodthirsty as a Cretan bloodhound, such an implication seems far-fetched and out of place here. Like the 'Iceland dog' of line 44, the expression is merely a term of abuse without any precise application, and chosen for no particular reason, unless it be Pistol's artistic craving for variety.
II. i. 79. powdering-tub. Literally, a tub in which meat was salted. Here it is used to denote the hot bath which formed part of the treatment for certain diseases.
II. i. 80. kite of Cressid's hind. This expression appears to have been a stock phrase in the literature of the day. Both Gascoigne and Greene use it. Henryson's Testament of Cresseid had told of Cressid's transformation into a leperous beggar (lazar).
II. i. 86. thy face. Bardolph's fiery complexion is the subject of more than one jest in Henry IV. Fluellen supplies us with further information on the same subject in III. vi. 110 ff.
II. i. 124. quotidian tertian. Dame Pistol has been so pleased with the learned sound of these medical terms that she uses them without any knowledge of their meaning. As a result, she confuses the quotidian fever, in which the paroxysms recur daily, with the tertian, in which the interval of recurrence is three days.
II. i. 130. corroborate. Of course the literal meaning of this word is quite inappropriate here; but that need not trouble us, as it obviously did not trouble Pistol, who uses it merely because it is a big word.
II. i. 133. careers. A term used to designate galloping a horse at full speed, backward and forward. Probably 'passes some careers' is Nym's way of saying 'Gives a free rein to his whims.'
II. ii. 118. bade thee stand up. 'Commanded thee to rise and do his bidding,' as one might give orders to a servant who could be relied upon for unquestioning obedience. Possibly, like the word dub in line 120, this is an allusion to the formula used in conferring knighthood.
II. ii. 155-157. For me . . . intended. 'Diuerse write that Richard earle of Cambridge did not conspire with the lord Scroope and Thomas Graie for the murthering of king Henrie to please the French king withall, but onelie to the intent to exalt to the crowne his brother in law Edmund earle of March as heire to Lionell duke of Clarence: after the death of which earle of March . . . the earl of Cambridge was sure that the crowne should come to him by his wife, and to his children, of hir begotten.' (Holinshed.)
II. iii. 9. Arthur's bosom. Obviously the hostess means Abraham's bosom. Cf. St. Luke 16. 22.
II. iii. 17, 18. and a' babbled of green fields. This is the famous emendation offered by Theobald (1688-1744) for the incomprehensible 'and a Table of greene fields' of the Folio.
II. iv. S. d. Constable. The Constable of France, originally the principal officer of the household of the French kings, was at this time the commander-in-chief of the French army in the absence of the monarch.
II. iv. 25. Whitsun morris-dance. Whitsuntide is the week commencing with Whitsunday (the seventh Sunday after Easter), especially the first three days of the week. The morris-dance was a fantastic dance which commonly formed part of the Whitsuntide festivities in English villages. The name 'morris' is derived from 'Moorish' and would seem to indicate that the dance was imported from Spain.
II. iv. 50. flesh'd. Hounds and hawks, in training for the chase, were fed with flesh.
III. ii. 3. corporal. In Act II, Scene i, Bardolph is called 'Lieutenant.'
III. ii. 6. plain-song. A simple melody without variations.
III. ii. 65. the mines is not. It is hardly necessary to point out the many irregularities in Captain Fluellen's use of singulars and plurals. He takes similar liberties with actives and passives and with the verbs 'to be' and 'to have.' In his speeches, as in those of the Scotch and Irish officers, dialect peculiarities are not explained unless they present unusual difficulties.
III. ii. 136-139. Of my . . . nation. Macmorris, who is of an excitable Celtic temperament, is quick to resent a fancied sneer at his country.
III. v. 7. scions. This word originally denoted small twigs cut from one tree and grafted upon another. The Dauphin is referring, of course, to the Norman extraction of the English.
III. v. 12. but. Grammatically the oath, 'Mort de ma vie,' governs this word. 'If these Englishmen march along uncontested, death take me if I do not sell my dukedom.'
III. v. 36. Montjoy. Not a name, but a title, borne by the chief heralds of France through many centuries. It is probable, however, that Shakespeare himself supposed that it was a name. Cf. III. vi. 150.
III. vi. S. d. English and Welch. The use of these words as synonyms for the names of Gower and Fluellen emphasizes Shakespeare's intention of representing national types in these captains.
III. vi. 13. aunchient lieutenant. Fluellen, with characteristic redundancy, gives Pistol two different titles.
III. vi. 42. pax. Perhaps this is a mistake for 'pyx,' the box containing the Host or consecrated wafer of the Mass. To steal a pyx would be a very serious sacrilege, and we know that on this expedition King Henry ordered a man hanged for such a theft. The pax, on the other hand, was a less sacred object— the piece of wood or metal, engraved with the picture of Christ, which was given to the laity to be kissed during the celebration of the Mass.
III. vi. 62. The fig of Spain. Pistol merely repeats and elaborates the exclamation of line 59. 'Figo' was the Spanish word for 'fig.'
III. vii. 14. as if his entrails were hairs. The tennis balls of the day were stuffed with hair. Cf. Much Ado About Nothing, III. ii. 46, 47.
III. vii. 71, 72. 'The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.' (2 Peter 2. 22.)
III. vii. 98. go to hazard. Shakespeare adopts this incident from Holinshed. 'The Frenchmen in the meanewhile, as though they had beene sure of victorie, made great triumphe, for the capteins had determined before how to diuide the spoile, and the soldiers the night before had plaid the Englishmen at dice.'
III. vii. 126. 'tis a hooded valour. This is a metaphor drawn from falconry. The hawk was kept hooded till it was released to fly at the game. 'To bate' was to flap the wings, as the hawk invariably did, after being unhooded, preparatory to flight. Probably the Constable uses this word punningly with a play upon another meaning of 'bate': to dwindle, to diminish.
IV. i. 55. Saint Davy's day. It was an old Welsh custom to wear a leek upon Saint David's day to commemorate the victory said to have been won by King Arthur over the Saxons on Saint David's day in the year 540 A. D. It is the tradition that the battle was fought in a garden where leeks were growing and that Saint David ordered Arthur's soldiers to wear the leek in honour of the victory. Shakespeare refers to this custom in two other passages in this play: IV. vi. 102 ff. and V. i. 74.
IV. i. 246. French crowns. There is a double pun here: a play upon two different meanings of 'crown' and an allusion to the crime of clipping gold coins.
IV. i. 283. The farced title. Perhaps there is an allusion here to the herald that goes before the king and proclaims his full title in high-sounding phrases. More probably running 'fore means 'prefixed to' the name of the king.
IV. i. 321. chantries. Originally a chantry was an endowment for the maintenance of one or more priests to sing daily mass for the souls of the founders or others specified by them. Later it came to mean a chapel, altar, or part of a church so endowed.
IV. i. 323-325. Though all that I can do, etc. King Henry acknowledges that such works of piety as the founding of chantries have availed him nothing; not by such means can he cleanse his conscience of the sense of guilt. After all that he can do, he must still penitently implore pardon.
IV. ii. 36. dare the field. Another phrase borrowed from the terminology of falconry. The bird was said to be 'dared' when it was so terrified by the hawk that it kept close to the ground.
IV. ii. 60, 61. The French 'thought themselues so sure of victorie, that diuerse of the noble men made such hast towards the battell, that they left manie of their seruants and men of warre behind them, and some of them would not once staie for their standards: as, amongst other, the duke of Brabant, when his standard was not come, caused a baner to be taken from a trumpet and fastened to a speare; the which he commanded to be borne before him in steed of his standard.' (Holinshed.)
IV. iv. S. d. Excursions. This stage direction indicates that small groups of armed men hurry across the stage as if in the heat of battle.
IV. iv. 4. Qualtitie calmie custure me. This is the reading of the Folio. The passage is usually emended to read, 'Quality? Calen O custure me!' The last four words in this amended reading form the refrain of a popular Irish song of Shakespeare's day and are a corruption of the Irish phrase, 'Colleen, oge asture,' i.e., 'young girl, my treasure.' According to this conjecture, Pistol repeats the only word he has understood in the French gentleman's speech and follows it by quoting, with characteristic irrelevancy, the burden of this popular song. The present editor has restored the Folio reading because the resemblance between Pistol's words and the burden of the song is not close enough to be altogether convincing; but the theory represents the most satisfactory explanation that has been offered. C. D. Stewart (Some Textual Difficulties in Shakespeare, Yale University Press, 1914, pp. 71-74) argues that Pistol is trying to talk French: 'Quel titre comme accoster me.'
IV. iv. 14. moys. Probably the French 'muys' or 'muids,' a measure of corn, equal to five quarters English measure. It has also been suggested that 'moys' were some sort of coin.
IV. iv. 76. devil i' the old play. This refers not to any particular play, but to the old Morality plays, in which the Devil was frequently the butt of the Vice or clown, who, armed with a wooden dagger, subjected him to all manner of physical indignities. The 'roaring devil' in these plays presented just such a combination of braggadocio and cowardice as Pistol.
IV. vii. 104. in a garden. This is another reference to the traditional Arthurian battle in the leek-garden. Cf. IV. i. 55 and note.
IV. vii. 105. Monmouth caps. These caps were soft and flat, with a plume, and were worn particularly by soldiers. As their name indicates, they were originally made at Monmouth, where the cap-making industry appears to have flourished. 'The best caps were formerly made at Monmouth, where the Capper's Chapel doth still remain.' (Fuller, Worthies of Wales, 1660.)
IV. viii. 128. Non nobis. This is the one hundred and fifteenth psalm, which begins, in the Latin version, 'Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed nomini tuo da gloriam.'
V. Chor. 30. general. Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, set out from London on March 27, 1599, to suppress Tyrone's rebellion in Ireland. (Cf. Appendix B.) His return was by no means the triumph which Shakespeare prophesies in these lines. He mismanaged his campaign most conspicuously, frequently acting in opposition to the commands of the queen, and finally concluded a truce with Tyrone in September in order that he might be free to return to London and vindicate himself before the queen. In the following June he was called before a special court to answer for his mismanagement of the mission and was deprived of his offices.
V. Chor. 38. emperor's. In five lines the Chorus passes over the events of four years. Emperor Sigismund landed at Dover on May 1, 1416, about six months after the battle of Agincourt, and immediately set about his task of making peace between England and France; but it was not until May, 1420, that the peace treaty was signed. Shakespeare makes no reference to Henry's second military expedition to France and the long siege of Rouen.
V. ii. 138. measure. Shakespeare frequently plays on the various meanings of this word. Here he first uses the word in the sense of 'metre'; secondly, of 'dancing'; and thirdly, of 'amount.'
V. ii. 155. let thine eye be thy cook. Let thine eye dress me in attractions to suit thy taste.
V. ii. 160. uncoined constancy. Henry means that his love has not been stamped out into the form of glib phrases such as pass current among more accomplished but less sincere lovers.
V. ii. 262. broken music. 'Part music,' arranged for different kinds of instruments.
V. ii. 318. circle. The making of a circle was part of the elaborate preparations of conjurers for the exercise of their magic. Within the circle the conjurer was supposed to be immune from the baleful influences of the evil spirits that he raised.
V. ii. 347. perspectively. As through a 'perspective' i.e., an instrument producing fantastic optical illusions.
V. ii. 369. Præclarissimus. Once more Shakespeare has copied one of Holinshed's errors. The word should be 'præcarissimus,' the Latin equivalent for the French 'très cher.'