Academic journal article Shakespeare Studies

"O for a Muse of Fire": Henry V and Plotted Self-Exculpation

Academic journal article Shakespeare Studies

"O for a Muse of Fire": Henry V and Plotted Self-Exculpation

Article excerpt

Whether this was true that so he spake, as one that gaue too much credit to foolish prophesies & vaine tails, or whether it was fained, as in such cases it commonlie happeneth, we leaue it to the aduised reader to iudge.

But yet to speake a truth, by his proceedings, after he had atteined to the crowne, what with such taxes, tallages, subsidies and exactions as he was constreined to charge the people with; and what by punishing such as mooued with disdeine to see him usurpe the crowne (contrarie to the oth taken at his entring into this land, upon his return from exile) did at sundrie times rebell against him, he wan himself more hatred, than in all his life time (if it had beene longer by manie years than it was) had beene possible for him to haue weeded out & remooued. (1)



THE FIRST SCENE of Henry V presents us with a king who has set his own plots and plans, the most important feature of which is to shelter himself from responsibility. This sheltering is motivated by his desire to escape the effects of guilt, the shadow of blame or responsibility that would or might result from an action taken unsuccessfully. (2) The etiology of personal rule (the man may feel compelled to play at being king based on his personal experience) and structural rule (the man plays the king in the manner he sees as proper to a ruler) divide the possibilities of action between the king's two bodies. In Henry V's case, these two bodies are formed in the two preceding plays of the tetralogy through the constant tension between the prodigal Hal and the plotting Hal. Henry V yokes these two bodies together in the opening scene, but in this resolution of tension there is a crucial latent content that is key to understanding the new king, here and later: his "changed man" status is a fantasy or charade that allows Hal to displace threats to himself onto other, larger causes. Along the play's entire length Henry V counters every event that contains a potential setback or threat to his becoming "the mirrour of all Christian kings." In other words, the success of the play as a presentation of the paragon of kingship (legitimate, unifying, empire-building, and heroic, not to mention charming and eloquent) rides on Henry's ability to deflect and thereby control or manage all conflicts and challenges. The play does this by producing Henry not only as a product of the internal logic of the Henriad, but also as a function of the play's relationship to chronicle history.

My methodological schema for analyzing what I call Henry's strategy of plotted self-exculpation will make use of Harry Berger Jr.'s own exploration of the Henriad in Making Trifles of Terrors, where he adapts Stanley Cavell's concepts of guilt and shame. According to Cavell, "shame is the specific discomfort produced by the sense of being looked at, the avoidance of the sight of others is the reflex it produces. Guilt is different; there the reflex is to avoid discovery. As long as no one knows what you have done, you are safe; or your conscience will press you to confess it and accept punishment. Under shame, what must be covered up is not your deed, but yourself." (3) Cavell's work also led Berger to read Shakespeare's plays using what he calls "discourse networks," or, more specifically, ethical discourses, as a way of avoiding the so-called "epigenetic fallacy," that is, the fallacy of conducting an analysis of literary characters as if they were real people. The ethical discourses that characters deploy in their speeches or, we might say (borrowing from Wittgenstein) the language games they play are, to name the most important: those of the sinner, victim/revenger, villain, donor, saint, and hero/honor seeker. (4) When, for example, a character is describing his or her motives for behaving like a sinner, these motives are drawn from social and cultural discourses that enable such description and thus the particular role the character is assuming: the discourses comprise the world of a play. A character may take up a discourse as a way of explaining desire, in order to avoid anxiety or fear, as a means to achieve power or avoid having to wield it, and so on. Fundamentally, what this way of conceptualizing characters gets us is a method that avoids endowing characters with that nature or subjectivity they claim for themselves. It's not simply that they don't have an inside until the play hollows it out as the effect of their speech. Without the matrix of discourse formed by spoken interactions among the figures on stage, character cannot emerge at all, much less grow in complexity.

To uncover the larger discourse networks of the community of the play, we must attend to three things: the dramatic character's etiology as available in his/her speech (what motivations, emotions, habits of thought, familial/social/cultural roles, likes and dislikes, prejudices, calculations, etc. does the character pretend to assume and why?); the actions a character takes (if a king, how does he rule? if a daughter, how does she acquiesce to or resist the patriarchal discourse that envelops her?); and finally, how the structure of the drama configures such characters in relation to what we might call "outside forces," even if these are only sources (such as chronicles and other dramas). For present purposes I will apply the first two in a reading of the opening scene of Henry V and then triangulate this reading, rendering it more three-dimensional by adding the perspective of the play's source material.


In at least four pivotal scenes in Henry V, the play presents a king who performs a strategy of plotted self-exculpation. By this I mean that he contrives to shift responsibility to others at critical times of decision making without their being aware that this is happening. These moments--establishing claims to French territory and possibly the French throne by manipulating the Church and the insult from the Dauphin; intervening in a conspiracy of nobles who have been lured by Henry's letters of commission; threatening the Governor of Harfleur with responsibility for the rape and murder of his people if he does not capitulate; and debating the issue of loyalty the night before Agincourt (Henry: "The King is not bound to answer the particular endings of his soldiers ...")--comprise a conspicuous habit of avoidance or, alternatively, a proactive, confrontational response to the exigencies of kingship.

As inner conditions are displaced to outer circumstances, a strategy emerges that marks the trajectory of Henry's successful rule (what in other contexts Linda Charnes calls "notorious identity"). (5) The mirror of all Christian kings is not only a product of his "famous victories;" (6) he is also a product of a guilt-management strategy that incurs shame to assuage guilt. The origin of this guilt is the Lancastrian legitimacy issue that has not disappeared with the death of Henry IV. Hal is still identified with this stain, although as Prince of Wales he has demonstrated no interest in dealing with the issue of shame. Only when he becomes king does he conspicuously attend to the causes of the "shameful" nature of the Lancastrian dynasty as evidenced by his ostentatious reburial of Richard and his building of chantries. But Henry's most important strategic shift in dealing with this legacy of guilt is to exculpate himself as king, initially by enacting a version of the saint's discourse, and then by using it to initiate the hero's discourse. (7)

At the outset, Henry V moves publicly out from under the shadow of usurpation by portraying himself as the symbol for English victimhood at the hands of the French, upon whom he will exact the revenge of empire retrieval. This discourse, however, will not of itself prove adequate to the current challenge. If the dramaturgical crux in this play is to present Henry's character as a product of the preceding plays of the Henriad with the additional imperative of raising his stature to that of Ideal English King, then it will be necessary to muster discourses other than simply those of the saint and the victim. The advantage of the saint's discourse is that it responds to a persistent question that Henry raises--"May I with right and conscience make this claim?"--and as Berger points out, this issue is "in its most significant manifestation pursued with increasing fervor through three plays by the son of Henry IV." But Berger goes on to say that the saint's discourse

   sometimes overlaps with another discourse, the hero's discourse, or
   discourse of honor. The saint's discourse involves a story one
   tells oneself.., and one tells it to or solicits it from others
   primarily to persuade oneself, especially if one suspects that what
   one is doing may be reprehensible. But the hero's discourse
   involves a story one has to elicit and hear from others, a story
   that, like a prize, one has to win or earn by continuous displays
   or promises of a form of activity that in recent decades has come
   to be known as "laying one's body on the line." Now since this is
   not something that one can ask one's poor body to spend all of its
   time doing, there are long periods of foreplay and aflerplay during
   which honor is maintained by words rather than deeds, or by words
   as deeds. (8)

Henry's shuttling between the discourses of saint and hero in Henry V, a play enacted in the shadow of 1 and 2 Henry IV where he performs the sinner/villain's discourse as a ruse or rehearsal, establishes what will become his characteristic mode of behavior. The key features of this behavior are its plotting (its always already-plottedness), and its self-exculpation; what the play is able to produce as an effect of this behavior is a king whose fame unfolds before our eyes proleptically in anticipation of the very history the play is writing. Or, to put it another way, the main character of Henry Vhas a twofold nature: on one hand, he is the product of his gesta, a famous king whose exploits are foreknown; at the same time, he is a dramatic figure who constructs these exploits with the knowing anticipation of their ends and means. Yeats was right, I think, to call Henry a "ripened Fortinbras," chief figure in a play that strong-arms Henry's contemplative, weak precursors and their deeds out of the way in order to position himself as a new hero, albeit a spotted one. (9)

The tension between the saint's discourse (the story one tells oneself in order to persuade oneself of rightness/righteousness) and the hero's discourse (the story one elicits from others to support honor or honor-seeking actions) is evident in the play's representative opening scene where the hero's discourse mocks that of the saint by displaying the latter as a false, though attractive, version of Henry's character. As Berger suggests, the hero's discourse works most effectively if provoked by the saint's discourse, and the plot laid at the opening of the play demonstrates Henry's masterful deployment of this relationship. His solicitation of the proper response to his query about war functions so as to shift attention to outer circumstances, busying as it will giddy minds with value-producing foreign quarrels. This ploy is alluring because saintly (a false sense of needing to be persuaded leads those around him to leap into the breach to cooperate in the venture), but it also operates so as to open up a space for heroic discourse. The dramatic brilliance and utility of Henry's ploy is that he does not need to participate in the plots he sets in motion; the discursive game he plays works by enticing other characters to take up complementary positions to his desire. The difference in the game set in motion here as compared to the first three plays of the Henriad is clear: whereas earlier practices of kingship avoided the active enlistment of court, Church, and citizenry in favor of invoking Divine Right (Richard II) or lex talionis (Henry IV), Henry V begins his reign even before he inherits the crown by eliciting the kind of doubt and wonder that renders the saint's discourse as a powerful tool with which to launch the hero's discourse and the history that will record his exploits as heroic. (10) In other words, the opening gambit of the play conceptualizes a process in which Shakespeare's reading of historical source material is transformed into a dialectic of playing-out (the naturalism of a history play) and playing-with, reflecting historical narrative and reflecting on it. (11) By the opening Chorus of act 2, "the youth of England [are] on fire ... and honour's thought / Reigns solely in the breast of every man. / They sell the pasture now to buy the horse, / Following the mirrour of all Christian kings...." As Shakespeare constructs him, Henry V is a two-way mirror of all Christian kings--the saint one sees through a glass darkly, and the hero reflected back from the glass, arrayed in honor.

Henry V opens with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Ely in close conversation regarding a bill of disendowment that is related to a previous bill the Church barely succeeded in neutralizing. Its consequences are grim for the prelates and for the Church's material interests generally. In answer to Ely's "But what prevention?" Canterbury responds with a gnomic, "The King is full of grace and fair regard" (1.1.22-23). The bishops next engage in a kind of mild hagiography of Henry that describes him as transformed, body and spirit, into the perfect man/king. While Ely's comment that the King is "crescive in his faculty" admits, slyly, that growth is a more natural explanation than miraculousness, it is the latter that carries the greater weight. This is symptomatic of the bishops' discursive mode: miraculousness suggests that the more mundane process involved in the Prince of Wales's training and education, his coming to maturity over time in a particular context, will be suppressed in favor of the notion of dramatic incipience, a useful rhetoric in the rationalizing of policies. At this early point in the play we are led to think that the bishops have their man, a king vulnerable to manipulation by religious figures with wealth, power, and righteousness at their disposal. Like other scenes plotted to ensure the King's self-exculpation, 1.1 features older characters who are themselves deeply involved in whatever intrigue is at hand and who display concern about Henry's ability and/or willingness to exert control over the emerging situation. What is always carefully constructed in this and later scenes is this sense of a plot unfolding in the moment, a dramatic strategy that initially withholds the fact that Henry has always already outplanned and outplotted everyone. Further, he has done so in a manner that shifts responsibility while demonstrating his mastery of political tactics.

Once Henry's bona tides have been established, the question of whether the King supports the Church or Commons as regards the bill is answered by Canterbury: "He seems indifferent, / Or rather swaying more upon our part" (1.1.73-74). Canterbury admits to tilting the balance by giving the greatest sum in church history for Henry's campaign in France. Ely then asks after the King's response.

Ely: How did this offer seem received, my lord?

Canterbury: With good acceptance of his majesty, Save that there was not time enough to hear, As I perceived his grace would fain have done, The severals and unhidden passages Of his true titles to some certain dukedoms, And generally to the crown and seat of France, Deriv'd from Edward, his great-grandfather.

Ely: What was th'impediment that broke this off?

Canterbury: The French ambassador upon that instant Craved audience--and the hour I think is come To give him hearing. Is it four o'clock?

Ely: It is.

Canterbury: Then go we in, to know his embassy--Which I could with ready guess declare Before the Frenchman speak a word of it.

Ely: I'll wait upon you, and I long to hear it.


Thus it is established that the Archbishop and the King have met and agreed to a plan in which the Church will provide funds for the war in exchange for Henry's help in staving off disendowment. Canterbury and Ely now proceed to the court in anticipation of hearing what the ambassador has to say.

Although Canterbury has told Ely that his interview with the King was cut short by the need to admit the French ambassador, we find out as 1.2 opens that this has not happened.

King Harry: Where is my gracious lord of Canterbury?

Exeter: Not here in presence.

King Harry: Send for him, good uncle.

Westmoreland: Shall we call in th'ambassador, my liege? King Harry: Not yet, my cousin. We would be resolved, Before we hear him, of some things of weight That task our thoughts, concerning us and France.


If we stop to think about it, we realize that the ambassador has been kept waiting while the first scene unfolds--that in the play's temporal space, 1.1 is acted while Henry and the courtiers are suspended between Canterbury's dismissal due to the French ambassador's craving audience and the time designated for this audience (four o'clock). There is no indication at this point as to what the French ambassador is doing at the court, though Canterbury's "I could with a ready guess declare / Before the Frenchman speak a word of it," suggests that there are machinations in that direction as well. What is withheld in 1.1 and then revealed in 1.2 is that Henry has laid his plots with the Church and with France in order to display a strategy of conspicuous exculpation.

Act 1, scene 2 opens abruptly with a confusion about who will be called in to the King's presence. Henry's opening lines suggest a king who is burdened, his thoughts tasked with a weight that renders him paralyzed by inward reckonings, reminding us of his father's wearied, continuous postponement of crusading. The discursive game afoot at this point allows Henry to provoke those present to supply him in his saintly persona with a narrative supporting his political objectives. In view of the court, Henry will feign nonchalance, then mild hesitation at the Archbishop's authorizing of his French claims in the wake of their earlier agreement about the disendowment bill: the court will then rouse him to take actions he has already clearly planned. (12) After eliciting legitimating stories as warrants for acting, Henry's responses to the Archbishop's articulation of the Salic law and to the Dauphin's mocking gift of tennis balls unfurl the banner of the hero's discourse:

   And God forbid, my dear and faithful lord,
   That you should fashion, wrest, or bow your reading,
   Or nicely charge your understanding soul
   With opening titles miscreate, whose right
   Suits not in native colours with the truth;
   For God doth know how many now in health
   Shall drop their blood in approbation
   Of what your reverence shall incite us to.


   And tell the pleasant Prince this mock of his
   Hath turned his balls to gunstones, and his soul
   Shall stand sore charged for the wasteful vengeance
   That shall fly from them--for many a thousand widows
   Shall this his mock mock out of their dear husbands,
   Mock mothers from their sons, mock castles down;
   Ay, some are yet ungotten and unborn
   That shall have cause to curse the Dauphin's scorn.
   But this lies all within the will of God,
   To whom I do appeal, and in whose name ...


To borrow a word from Henry, it is indeed a "conjuration" to manipulate the Archbishop and ambassador into providing a legitimating justification that allows him to shift responsibility for a heroic course from himself to others, and to simultaneously insulate himself from failure.

The rhetorical force of Henry's invitation to the Archbishop to interpret the Salic law comes from his success in sounding the drum of humility over and over again: "God forbid, my dear and faithful lord, / That you should fashion, wrest, or bow your reading, / Or nicely charge your understanding soul / With opening titles miscreate, whose right / Suits not in native colours with the truth...." It is useless to call this irony. Instead we should attend to the latencies of the scene, specifically, Henry's already revealed strategy of conspiring with the Church while appearing cautious and diffident to the court. The call to arms is, he suggests, the Church's responsibility, because he can only be "incited," "impawned," his sleeping sword of war "awakened." Henry's passivity here plays the saint's discourse to elicit the kind of support that would endow his decision with a just inevitability; as only a pawn, Henry shelters his kingship and himself from error, and by so doing breaks the inherited chain of association between illegitimacy, rebellion, and deposition. Canterbury's response many lines later, "The sin upon my head, dread sovereign" (1.2.97), is a pure expression of the discursive network that begins to construct Henry as infallible. After the Archbishop's rousing speech, invoking the Black Prince and the glory of past battles against the French, the enthusiasm for the venture catches fire and Ely, Exeter, Westmoreland, and even "A Lord" deliver speeches urging the King on. Henry has moved the court and clergy to agree passionately and publicly to a course that he has himself conspicuously avoided making a case for. His acquiescence is delayed further by his calling in of the French ambassador.

The waiting time for the ambassador occupies a space of a dozen lines that is filled with a speech by Henry; this speech provides a transition between a hotly forged court/Church/monarchical unity of purpose and the enactment of this purpose. If the fuse has been carefully primed, it waits only to be lit. Of course, the French are about to oblige with their customary arrogance, but even as the patriotic theme--articulated in the opening speech of the Chorus in act 2 ("Now all the youth of England are on fire ...")--unfolds, we can see how the play works to shape Henry as both the skillful political actor and the properly famous subject of history. "France," Henry says to those assembled awaiting the ambassador, "being ours we'll bend it to our awe, / Or break it all to pieces" (1.2.224). Awe is the fulfillment of Hal's prodigality, announced long ago in the corresponding scene of I Henry IV: to be wondered at carries stronger force and potential than being known, and it must be supported by a particular discursive strategy. Henry continues in the same vein:

                  Or there we'll sit,
   Ruling in large and ample empery
   O'er France and all her almost kingly dukedoms,
   Or lay these bones in an unworthy urn,
   Tombless, with no remembrance over them.
   Either our history shall with full mouth
   Speak freely of our acts, or else our grave,
   Like Turkish mute, shall have a tongueless mouth,
   Not worshipped with a waxen epitaph.

With this speech, which bridges a demonstration of national (or at least aristocratic and clerical) unity and the forthcoming French provocation, the play provides its already famous king with anxiety about how heroic fame is registered. This is a speech about historiography, and its figurative language constructs a proper metaphorics of risk. As Henry crosses the channel and engages the French, he will mouth over and over to his followers, and with more and more bravado, the daring implicit in the hero's discourse, the need for a leap of faith by those who join the cause. But here the anxiety is over an "unworthy urn," or to be "tombless," images that peak in the image of anonymity, if there is "no remembrance over [these bones]." The either/or that follows, success or failure, is wagered not with broken bodies, lost titles, lands, the spoil of war, but with historical memory; either Henry will earn the "full mouth" of inscribed history or a grave with a "tongueless mouth," "like Turkish mute"--silenced, castrated, his power to effect posterity cut off. The final line is pointed with the fear of lacking even the worship of a "waxen epitaph," calling attention not only to the ephemeral monument implied in "unworthy urn," since a wax tombstone or marker will not last, but especially to the transitory nature of the epitaph itself, the words that inscribe deeds. Berger's definition of the hero's discourse allows us to hear Henry's speech as the discursive game it is: the honor seeker cannot rely on deeds alone but must carefully manage words so that they prepare the appropriate memorial space in which the deeds may become inscribed. (13)

It is with the entrance of the French ambassador that Henry V begins to enact the kind of discursive strategy of emplotment, self-exculpation, and awe-inspiring speech making that we have anticipated since 1.2 of 1 Henry IV, and expected from the moment Henry warned the Archbishop to "Take heed how you impawn our person, / How you awake our sleeping sword of war." Since this moment when sleeping dogs were not let lie (were, in fact, only pretending to sleep), we have awaited this famous king's cry of havoc. The unleashing occurs as Henry's other strategy, establishing his claim to "certain dukedoms," has already succeeded. The drama of the buildup for the invasion of France is heightened not by King Charles's denial of Henry's claim, which is not what the ambassador offers, but by the exchange with the Dauphin that cuts straight to the heart of the new King of England's character. The Dauphin's King Henry is Prince Hal dressed in unearned finery, more interested in dancing and drinking than in politics. The ambassador's words and, especially, the gift of a tun of tennis balls, offer the assembled English courtiers a version of their king as without balls, or without having the right idea about what balls are for (play instead of virile action). One cannot imagine a character such as Hotspur, so imbued with the hero's discourse, being sent such a mockery; only a character who has passed through other, less overtly masculine (because anxiety-ridden) discourses such as the sinner and saint, can be thus misunderstood. This part of the scene, which closes the first act, demonstrates Henry's emergence into full discursive heroism.

His strategy is to manipulate the Dauphin's challenge so as to undergird his heroic agenda while at the same time ensuring self-exculpation. Henry's response to the ambassador's hesitant query as to whether he may "freely ... render what we have in charge" opposes his kingship to that governing the "Turkish mute," the castrated and tongueless functionary of his earlier speech: "We are no tyrant, but a Christian king, / Unto whose grace our passion is as subject / As is our wretches fettered in our prisons." This declaration invokes his previously wayward passions (prodigal, careless) with a marked difference. His ruse of Eastcheap folly is transformed into calculation, put at the disposal of any listener who finds it chilling that they may never have known this man. If when his passion was thought to be unfettered it was instead the strategic grace of emplotment, those who assumed his character to be defined by the miraculous are forced to rethink their judgment of him, which in turn endows him with a greater kingly potential. And herein lies an important element of the hero's discourse: it not only seeks honor through the support of others, but retrospectively bestows credit on those involved in making the hero. If the ambassador is chilled by this seemingly offhand, less-than-ameliorative comment, the court will smile wryly at the idea that the subjection of the King's passion to his grace also renders such passion as equivalent to an imprisoned, fettered wretch. What might this Christian king do, we wonder, if his passion were unfettered? The Dauphin's embassy refers only to a mocking catalog of Hal's profligacy ("you savour too much your youth," "there's naught in France / That can be with a nimble galliard won: / You cannot revel into dukedoms there"). Henry's answer, justly famous for its force and tone, asserts the seriousness of a king with balls who warns a mere boy that he has provoked the wrong person at the wrong game at the wrong time. As with his response to the Archbishop, Henry is again careful to make the Dauphin's blunder an opportunity to exculpate himself from any guilt in prosecuting a war with France. In returning to his theme of historical remembrance, chronicles of deaths foretold, mouths tongued with anguish and memory, he shifts responsibility to his adversary: "Ay, some are yet ungotten and unborn / That shall have cause to curse the Dauphin's scorn."

In sum, Henry's discourse as king deploys a different kind of game than the one that suited his purpose as Prince of Wales. His earlier displacement of the anxiety over Lancastrian legitimacy is now something he must actively deal with. He does so by first taking up what Berger calls the discourse of shame ("under shame, what must not be covered up is your act"), using it as a means of appropriating the hero's discourse. If at one time Hal covered up his acts by pretending to be bad, he reveals himself as a king not by "really" being good, but by ceasing the pretense of prodigality--by not covering up, but revealing, his acts. However, this description must immediately be qualified: as king, Henry reveals his acts without revealing his aim to avoid responsibility. That Henry is at the end of act 1 embracing shame as a mode of revelation is demonstrated by his response to Exeter's "This was a merry message." "We hope," Henry replies, "to make the sender blush at it": whereas we typically think of shame as causing a blush in the one who incurs it, Henry's staging of shame shifts guilt as responsibility to the French. Thus the catch or hitch in this discourse of shame is that it is used in the service of a fame-begetting, heroic process. In act 1, Henry has already plotted the story he elicits from others to ensure his fame; or, to state this principle more precisely, the text of the play employs a discourse is which Henry as King is animated first by the discourse of shame and then by the discourse of a hero, a shift that ensures a dramaturgical move from prodigal to warrior king.

From another vantage point, one might say that the first act of the play offers a careful and concentrated retelling of the change undergone by Hal in the Henry IV plays. There, the goal of Hal's change was to produce a worthy heir to the throne. In Henry V, this heir quickly and efficiently exceeds his father's accomplishments, and does so by plotting his way to successful ends that are foreordained. Henry's final speech in act 1 deploys fully the hero's discourse, seeking honor in response to the Dauphin's breech of decorum with the kind of masculine, martial rhetoric sure to strike the ears of those assembled. (14)


Thus far I have tried to demonstrate that Shakespeare created Hal/Henry V not as a "natural" hero without cunning but rather as a character who succeeds because of his strategizing and plotting. I would like to extend this reading of the Henriad with a consideration of the chronicle sources for the plays in an attempt to identify the kind of charismatic spark, the characterological quirk, that Shakespeare might have used to shape such a character. What is notable initially is that the Henry of Holinshed and Hall is far less aggressive than that of Shakespeare, a difference that can be seen from the outset of Henry V in Shakespeare's handling of the disendowment issue.

In introducing this issue through the Archbishop of Canterbury during 1.1, Shakespeare follows Holinshed. Canterbury remarks that the current worrisome disendowment bill is a repetition of an earlier bill--a reference to the famous disendowment bill of 1410 that detailed the benefits to secular authorities of confiscating the Church's temporal holdings. (15) In Holinshed, mention of the 1410 bill begins the account of the year 1414, and is followed by details of the Leicester Parliament called by Henry at the end of April. Holinshed writes that at this Parliament, "manie profitable lawes were concluded, and manie petitions mooued," which had been deferred until that time. (16) He then adds that "Amongst which, one was, that a bill exhibited in the parlement holden at Westminster in the eleuenth year of king Henrie the fourth (which by reason the king was then troubled with ciuill discord, came to none effect) might now with good deliberation be pondered, and brought to some good conclusion." (17) Details of the bill follow, underscoring its radical transferal of temporalities from the Church to civil authority. This disendowment bill, as did those before it, sought to transfer the considerable wealth of the Church's temporal holdings to the king's coffers, thereby enabling him to pursue policies that would strengthen the realm. The Commons pursued, at least publicly, a strategy that might be called "nationalist," taking care to avoid making any sweeping anticlerical pronouncements. The success of the disendowment would take the pressure off the Commons, since they could for the foreseeable future avoid the taxation for which the monarchy constantly claimed need. As the Church and Parliament were the two main sources of Crown revenue, and since the Lancastrian dynasty had so far spent much effort and resources putting down rebellion and was now making overtures and preparations for war or potential war with France, the jockeying for position between the parties grew even more acute.

In Holinshed, the clerical establishment, rightfully fearful of its loss of power if disendowed, was the aggressor in taking action against the bill: "This bill was much noted, and more feared among the religious sort, whom suerlie it touched verie neere, and therefore to find remedie against it, they determined to assaie all waies to put by and overthrow this bill: wherein they thought best to trie if they might mooue the kings mood with some sharpe inuention, that he should not regard the importunate petitions of the commons." (18) Enter Henry Chichele, Archbishop of Canterbury, who in Parliament "made a pithie oration, wherein he declared, how not onlie the duchies of Normandie and Aquitaine, with the counties of Aniou and Maine, and the countrie of Gascoigne, were by vndoubted title apperteining to the king, as to the lawfull and onelie heire of the same; but also the whole realme of France, as heire to his great grandfather king Edward the third." (19) Chichele then did "much inuei" against the Salic law as a curb to Henry's claims on French territories and titles. Once the archbishop had "said sufficientlie for the proofe of the kings iust and lawfull title to the crowne of France, he exhorted him to aduance foorth his banner to fight for his right," adding that to help in this the Church had agreed in Convocation to grant to his highness "such a summe of monie, as neuer by no spirituall persons was to any prince before those daies giuen or aduanced." (20) Following these details, familiar to any reader of Henry V, are lengthy descriptions of political embassies and exchanges back and forth prior to anything like the swift call to arms that characterizes Shakespeare's play. What I want to call attention to here is the way the playwright has anticipated these political moves by creating a character who plots them before they can be deployed against him as "sharp inventions." Shakespeare's Henry V is not a figure borne along by the wave of historical circumstance but rather an active participant whose anticipatory moves make him not just an astute ruler, since the astute ruler may shrewdly wait and bide his time, but rather an active agent of his own becoming, energized by the prospect that such a becoming is a "famous" one.

Further, the prelates in Hall's The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Famelies of Lancaster and Yorke.... are even more aggressive than those in Holinshed's more historiographically neutral version of the 1414 initiatives. (21) Hall's description characterizes the representatives of the Church in terms that leave little doubt about how we ought to interpret their motives: "This before remembred bill was muche noted and feared amongst the religious sort whom in effect it muche touched, insomuche that the fat Abbotes swet, the proude Priors frouned, the poore Friers curssed the sely Nonnes wept, and al together wer nothyng pleased nor yet content. Now to finde a remedy for a mischief and a tent to stop a wounde, the Clergy myndyng rather to bowe then breake, agreed to offre to the kyng a greate some of money to staye this newe moued demaund." (22) Hall notes that some in the Church were for and some were against the offer, the latter worrying that if this strategy were known, the Commons would accuse them of being "curruptours of Princes and enemies of the publique wealthe." Finally, "they determined to cast all chaunces whiche mighte serue their purpose, & in especiall to replenishe the kynges brayne with some pleasante study that he should nether phantasy nor regard the serious peticion of the importunate commons." (23) Thus the major chronicle sources at Shakespeare's disposal clearly offer an angling church, intent on keeping its material possessions intact, and a king content to let fortune favor him. Little intervention on the part of the king is needed in these circumstances. But as the final movement of the complex work of the Henriad, the Holinshed/Hall versions of the disendowment issue would not do; the playwright had already constructed a character whose plotting nature was apparent early on. If legend has often tagged such a character with the apothegm "fortune favors the brave," Shakespeare stubbornly transformed this to "fortune favors the planner."

But Shakespeare's sleight of hand in positioning Henry vis-a-vis the disendowment issue in 1414 raises other questions about the Henriad's relationship to the chronicle materials. Why would Henry V, opening as it does at the advent of Henry's reign, pick up Holinshed's reference to an event three years earlier? What does 1410 have to do with Henry V? According to the chronicle sources, quite a lot, because Henry was an important player in the religious controversies of the time, especially the Crown responses to the Lollard threat.

As it happens, the presentation of the petition for disendowment from the Commons in 1410 came at a time of more general instability. Because Henry IV was incapacitated due to illness, his oldest son took over management of the Privy Council, supplanting his father's most powerful political and religious ally, Thomas Arundel, (24) with the prince's friend and ally Thomas Beaufort, appointed chancellor in Arundel's place earlier in the year. That the future Henry V continued his father's precedent in burning heretics and defending the prerogatives of the Church is clear (he was later called "the priests' king" [princeps presbiterorum]), (25) but the positions of the Prince of Wales on controversial issues were nonetheless complicated and sometimes difficult to define. For example, Henry showed considerable patience with Sir John Oldcastle, suggesting that he was loath to see a person die for his religious beliefs and was willing on occasion to intervene personally (treason, however, was another matter). (26) But Oldcastle is not the only burned heretic with whom Henry of Monmouth had contact, and the case of John Badby, burned in 1410, is more suggestive in terms of Shakespeare's transformation of chronicle materials.

It should be first noted that post-Reformation writers of Lollard history (Tyndale, Bale, Hall, Foxe, Holinshed, and many more), reconfigured these proto-Reformation events so as to render their principals as martyrs in the Protestant cause. (27) The difficulty that attended such rehabilitation for users of the chronicles was that it cast kings such as Henry IV and V in the role of villain. Notwithstanding the fact that guilt for the persecution, condemnation, and even sentencing of heretics fell naturally on archbishops and other targets of Protestant ire, the secular authorities not only acquiesced to such punishment but carried it out. (28) The martyrs of the first half of the fifteenth century (after Henry IV's statute De heretico comburendo of 1401) are first of all Lancastrian martyrs; despite the achievements of Agincourt and other military victories, the historical records of Henry V's reign, and that of his father, are of pronounced intolerance of religious heterodoxy. To some extent, it was possible for sixteenth-century chroniclers to finesse these awkward facts, as well as Lancastrian usurpation issues, as Hall did by beginning his chronicle with Henry IV's reign. Shakespeare's own strategy of avoidance was to ignore most of the details of religious controversy in the chronicles. Thus what Shakespeare chose to incorporate in Henry V, such as the references to the disendowment issue and possible allusions to the Badby episode, are highly suggestive in understanding the characterological development of the king.

In Holinshed, the account of the execution in 1410 of John Badby, a Worcestershire tailor, directly follows the mention of the disendowment bill. Badby was by no means a major figure in Lollard intellectual circles, coming to the attention of the authorities not by any notable preaching or writing but by holding unorthodox views with little regard for secrecy. The main charge in the indictment against him concerned his holding stubbornly to the belief that after the Eucharistic host had been consecrated by the priest on the altar, it continued to be bread. His unwillingness to concede anything with respect to the miracle of transubstantiation put him in dangerous straits, and led him "to be brought before Thomas Peveril, the politically inconsequential bishop of the comparatively insignificant diocese of Worcester, on 2 January 1409." (29) As Peter McNiven explains in his study of Badby and the historical context that led to his execution, "The proceedings against Badby could provide an ideal occasion for illustrating the evils of Lollardy, and the orthodox fervour and determination of the authorities, before the widest of audiences." (30) Badby was in the wrong place at the wrong time. (31)

Badby's execution also came on the heels of the failure of the Commons' petition for disendowment (which Henry may have implicitly supported, or at least allowed to be set before Parliament). (32) But once the disendowment bill had failed, political equilibrium had to be restored. The Commons could not simply be punished for its cheek, since the Crown depended upon it for revenue. One way to project a coherent program of church/government orthodoxy was to collaborate in a demonstration of the severity of the retribution for violating it. In 1410, with an incapacitated king and an ambitious Prince of Wales in charge, Badby offered an ideal opportunity for such a demonstration. In 1414, a similar displacement would be effected by means of war, rechanneling reformist energies from the domestic to the foreign, busying parliamentary minds not only with foreign quarrels but also with alternate sources of revenue.

It is useful, I think, to imagine the playwright using the Badby materials as given in Holinshed to construct Henry V, and at root, its eponymous character. In Holinshed the account for the year 1410 begins with the disendowment bill, including Henry IV's dislike of it and his affirmation of the Church's prerogative to apprehend and punish Lollards (the Commons had asked that the king's writ be the enforcement mechanism). Holinshed goes on to describe the execution of Badby without detailing his heretical views. This is not surprising, perhaps, given the awkward task facing post-Reformation chroniclers relating pre-Reformation events in which their king and countrymen worked the wrong side of the street. But after briefly mentioning Badby, Holinshed goes into great detail about the Prince of Wales's extraordinary solicitude in attending and participating in the Lollard's execution. If, as McNiven notes, "the purpose of Badby's second appearance [after he had been condemned before Convocation] was to prove to as wide an audience as possible that he was worthy of death, and to obtain maximum publicity for the passing and carrying out of the sentence," the Church was not the only one to get in on the act. Henry's unprecedented appearance and dramatic actions at Badby's execution provide a startling ur-version of plotted self-exculpation.

Here is Holinshed's account:

   During this parlement one John Badbie a tailor ... was brought
   into Smithfield, and there in a tun or pipe burnt to death, in
   pitifull manner. The kings eldest son the lord Henrie prince of
   Wales being present, offered him his pardon, first before the
   fire was kindled, if he would haue recanted his opinions; and after
   when the fire was kindled, hearing him make a roring noise verie
   pitifullie, the prince caused the fire to be plucked backe, and
   exhorting him being with pitifull paine almost dead, to remember
   himselfe, and renounce his opinions, promising him not onelie life,
   but also three pence a daie so long as he liued to be paid out of
   the kings coffers: but he hauing recovered his spirits againe,
   refused the princes offer, choosing eftsoones to tast the fire, and
   so to die, than to forsake his opinions. Whereupon the prince
   commanded, that he should be put into the tun againe, from
   thencefoorth not to have anie fauour or pardon at all, and so it
   was doone, and the fire put to him againe, and he consumed to
   ashes. (33)

The only detail missing from this version of events is related in the London Chronicle: "And Herry prynce of Walys, thanne the kynges eldest sone, consailed hym for to forsake his heresye, and holde the righte wey of holy chirche. And the prior of seynt Bertelmewes in Smythfeld broughte the holy sacrament of Godys body, with xij torches lyght before, and in this wyse cam to this cursed heretyk...." (34) John Foxe's Acres and Monuments offers an even more elaborate version: "In this meane season, the Prior of Saynt Bartelmewes in Smythfield, brought with all solemnitye the sacrament of Gods bodye, wyth twelue torches borne before, and so shewed the Sacrament to the poore man beyng at the stake. And then they demaunded of hym how he beleued in it, he aunsweryng: that he knew well it was halowed bread, and not Gods bodye. And then was the tunne put ouer hym, and fire putte vnto hym." (35) The Prince of Wales did not just "happen" to attend the execution, nor did he come as a passive witness to the power of the monarchy to subdue unorthodox behavior. On the contrary, the staging of Badby's heresy, in which he is publicly made to reject the sacrament after a solemn and conspicuous display of orthodoxy, allows Henry to appear in dramatic fashion as an upholder of the faith while at the same time offering a merciful solution. Such coercive due process is a consistent feature of Henry's behavior as reconfigured by Shakespeare.

The extraordinary events that occurred around the burning of this otherwise insignificant heretic suggest that the Prince of Wales was not a man to sit back and let events unfold about him. When there was a political or tactical advantage to be gained, he seized it with a conspicuous intervention. And he did so in this case by pursuing a strategy that put himself in the dramatic frame of action. His participation in the burning of John Badby was a risk, but a calculated one. As McNiven points out, this was an intervention in which the prince could "impose his own individualistic solution" by effecting a recantation and offering the heretic a second chance. (36) Holinshed's language suggests Henry's Christlike overture to Badby: "to remember himselfe, and renounce his opinions, promising him not onelie life...." Henry is here a potential savior, offering Badby salvation through remembrance and renunciation of sin, and the sparing of his life; the only eternal life he can offer is the heavenly perpetuity of three pence a day. Such a holy bribe demonstrates the prince's desire to gain Badby's cooperation in this scheme, but the latter is having none of it. At this point, instead of the triumph of turning the lost sheep back into the fold, Henry has "a scorched and unrepentant Lollard on his hands." (37) His reaction is to return Badby to the fire, but only after it is clear that Badby has deliberately chosen this fate, thereby shifting responsibility from the mechanism of power to the heretic himself. Annabel Patterson's insistence that this was "an opportunity for a dramatic public demonstration of [Henry's] own orthodoxy" ignores the possibility that orthodoxy is not the only benefit that Henry hoped to gain. (38) The impression that Shakespeare evidently took from his reading was certainly not that this was a king whose deep religious fervor superseded his political calculations.

Henry's presence at this event marks his involvement in a matter of grave and pressing interest for this period with a characteristic twist. Henry's merciful interventions--his offer of pardon and even an endowment--may well have been the kind of textual moment that becomes the raw material of a discursive game, material that a dramatist could transform for characterological purposes. It presents the prince as leaving the terrible choice to Badby himself; once he refuses to recant, the prince can wash his hands of responsibility. The example of John Badby in the chronicles thus has the makings of a strategy of displaced culpability, of deliberate emplotment, which is the hallmark of Shakespeare's king.

O for a muse of fire indeed.


I would like to thank Susan Zimmerman and the anonymous reader who worked so hard to improve this essay.

(1.) Both epigraph quotations from Holinshed's The Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, 1587 rev. ed. (London: J. Johnson, 1808), 3:58. This is the end of Henry IV's reign.

(2.) I am interested in countering statements like Anthony Brennan's: "We are not given any clear signal that this is a carefully constructed performance, though everything we know about Henry makes it inherently probable." Twayne's New Critical Introductions to Shakespeare: Henry V (New York: Twayne, 1992), 24. We are given clear signals and need to be doggedly attentive regarding "what we know about Henry" and how we know it.

(3.) Quoted in Harry Berger, Jr., Making Trifles of Terrors: Redistributing Complicities in Shakespeare (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997), xii-xiii; hereafter referred to as MTT. The quotation originally appears in Stanley Cavell, Must We Mean What We Say? Modern Philosophical Essays in Morality, Religion, Drama, Music, and Criticism (New York: Scribner, 1969), 277-78.

(4.) See xiii-xix, 300-301, 222-46. It is important to note that the ethical discourses that are taken up by characters (and that, reflexively, they are taken up by) are not limited to just one. Characters often shuttle between discourses and may play them off against one another or be "unaware" (in the sense that we cannot determine their intention) that while pursuing one language game, they consistently play another. This is particularly true of the victim and revenger's discourses, which are often inextricably linked.

(5.) I borrow yet another conceptual phrase from Berger. In the context of a discussion of Northumberland, Falstaff, and others in 2 Henry IV, he writes: "To shift the source of guilt and anxiety from grief to grievance, from inner condition to outer circumstance, to alienate it to some more manageable and culpable scapegoat on whom bad humors can be vented, offers the relief of action, purgation, and closure, as well as the pleasure of victimization" (142). For Charnes's term, see Notorious Identity: Materializing the Subject in Shakespeare (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), especially 1-20.

(6.) I refer, of course, to the play The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth that Shakespeare used as a source for his play. Reprinted in The Oldcastle Controversy, Peter Corbin and Douglas Sedge, eds. (New York: Manchester University Press, 1991), 145-99.

(7.) One of the complexities of Henry V's character is how it is built separately from that of his father (the seemingly dissolute prince who almost never has contact with him) and as a direct result of having a father whose rule is represented as at every turn impeded by these kinds of inner/outer struggles. Henry V presents a marked difference: a king who does not pursue this kind of discursive strategy, turning whatever inner hurts and anxieties outward without doing so reactively, as if it were always entirely personal. Henry V plans and plots instead of suffering the kind of fatigue and heaviness the crown brought to his father. I'll risk an analogy with The Lord of the Rings. If the crown in history plays is like the ring in Tolkien's story, Henry IV comes to possess it and then cannot help but put it on. His use of its powers drains him but he cannot do otherwise. His son, on the other hand, understands better the difference between possessing and wearing, and so reaps the benefits of potential power without bending to its soul-destroying power.

(8.) MTT, 231.

(9.) Anticipations of his transformation have, of course, been established earlier in the tetralogy. See, for example, Vernon's response to Hotspur's question about the "the nimble-footed madcap Prince of Wales": "I saw young Harry with his beaver on, / His cuishes on his thighs, gallantly armed,/Rise from the ground like feathered Mercury, / and vaulted with such ease into his seat / As if an angel dropped down from the clouds / To turn and wind a fiery Pegasus, / And witch the world with noble horsemanship" (1 Henry IV, 4.1.95,105-11). See also Vernon's continued praise of the Prince's rhetorical prowess at 5.2.51-68, to which Hotspur responds: "Cousin, I think thou art enamoured / On his follies" (5.2.69-70). All references to Shakespeare are from The Norton Shakespeare, Stephen Greenblatt et al., eds. (New York: W. W. Norton, 1997).

(10.) It would perhaps be better to write "as the playwright deploys them," though here and elsewhere I'll maintain the illusion that Henry controls this discourse.

(11.) In his Arden edition of Henry V, T. W. Craik contends that "Though Shakespeare read history attentively he was not fettered by it" (32). He follows this statement with a summary of liberties that Shakespeare takes with historical details; his intention is to demonstrate that the playwright made such changes when they suited dramatic force or structure. Accurate enough, but faulty in its implication as to how Shakespeare's reading of history mattered to his writing of it. Craik's Sidneyan assumption of the poet's superiority over the historian in getting at "truth" falls into a false dichotomy that Shakespeare never accedes to. The historian of Sidney's Defence of Poesie, "captived to the truth of a foolish world" (32), is not representative of those figures whose materials a playwright like Shakespeare used. Hall, Holinshed, Bale, Foxe, anonymous balladeers, and earlier playwrights synthesized primary, secondary, and tertiary works to construct their "histories." A close look at their work finds them often unfettered by the objective "truth" of events, nor did they seem concerned about the difficulties of uncovering the supposed "truth" of the past. Important work on this subject has been done in recent years by, among others, Michel de Certeau, The Writing of History, trans. Tom Conley (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), Hayden White, Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987), D. R. Woolf, Reading History in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000) and The Social Circulation of the Past: English Historical Culture, 1500-1730 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), J. G. A. Pocock, Politics, Language and Time: Essays on Political Thought and History (New York: Atheneum, 1971) and others, including Annabel Patterson and Paul Strohm, whose relevant works are listed below.

(12.) Contrast this with Lily B. Campbell's reading of this scene: "The sum has been offered in aid of the projected wars in France, but Shakespeare does not indicate, as does Holinshed, that the archbishop's purpose in the offer has been to turn Henry's mind to making war in France in order to get it off church revenues. Instead, Shakespeare makes the king the prime mover in the matter, representing him as seeking advice from the archbishop as his moral and spiritual mentor." It is difficult to fathom how Campbell misses Shakespeare's attentiveness to Holinshed's "indication" of the archbishop's purpose and even harder to understand how one might justify Henry's meeting with Canterbury as advice-seeking from his "mentor." See Shakespeare's "Histories": Mirrors of Elizabethan Policy (San Marino, CA: Huntington Library Publications, 1965), 260.

(13.) The first quarto offers a more concise version of this speech, altering it slightly:

King: Call in the messenger sent from the Dauphin. And by your aid, the noble sinews of our land, France being ours, we'll bring it to our awe, Or break it all in pieces. Either our chronicles Shall with full mouth speak freely of our acts, Or else like tongueless mutes Not worshipped with a paper epitaph.


The quarto passage does not differ essentially in its meaning, but its brevity dampens the vividness of the Folio's version as well as stripping the latter of its repetitions ("unworthy urn," "tombless," "no remembrance"). The quarto's word choice also substitutes "chronicles" for "history" and offers the collapsed "tongueless mutes" for the simile "Turkish mute" that leads to a "tongueless mouth," thus muting the Folio's hint of castration. Finally, instead of "waxen epitaph" the quarto offers "paper epitaph," which, while continuing the theme of transitoriness, offers a conceit common to the sonnets (immortality through written verse). Lost is the ancillary meaning of wax/wane implied by the Folio text. The First Quarto of King Henry V, ed. Andrew Gurr (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

(14.) The way shame is inverted here is akin to the dynamic that drives the story of Actaeon as explored by Berger (MTT, 262-87), building on Leonard Barkan's "Diana and Actaeon: The Myth as Synthesis," English Literary Renaissance 10 (1980): 317-59. The force is unleashed by the shamed on the shamer: Diana's turning of Actaeon into a deer and his hounds on him resembles Henry's turning tennis balls to gunstones and the French heir from aggressor to target. This is a deadly game Hal and Falstaff have played in the Henriad, as Berger notes: "In I Henry IV the traces of the myth produce a more sinister network of resonances. From his first words to his final rejection, Falstaff knowingly presents himself to Harry as a target, persistently probes beneath the madcap role to lay bare the aggressive motives that Harry tries to conceal even from himself" (262-63).

(15.) As Margaret Aston writes: "The text explains how clerical temporalities could be used to fund 15 earls, 1500 knights, 6200 esquires and 100 almshouses, as well as maintenance for 15 universities and 15,000 priests, and additional revenues for the king.... "Lollards and Reformers: Images and Literacy in Late Medieval England (London: Hambledon Press, 1984), 21. For a text of the bill, see Anne Hudson, ed., Selections from English Wycliffite Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978), 135-37. On disendowment in the period, see Aston's "'Caim's Castles': Poverty, Politics and Disendowment," in The Church, Politics and Patronage in the Fifteenth Century, ed. Barrie Dobson (Gloucester: Alan Sutton, 1984), 45-81.

(16.) Holinshed, 3:65.

(17.) Ibid.

(18.) Ibid.

(19.) Ibid.

(20.) Ibid.

(21.) Reprinted as Hall's Chronicle, ed. Henry Ellis (London, 1809; AMS Press, 1965); originally published 1548.

(22.) Ibid., 49.

(23.) Ibid.

(24.) See Christopher Allmand, Henry V (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 39-47. See also J. F. Baldwin, The King's Council in England During the Middle Ages (Oxford: Oxford, 1913).

(25.) Walsingham's phrase. See St. Alban's Chronicle, 1406-1420, ed. V. H. Galbraith (Oxford: Oxford, 1937). Also used by Thomas Hoccleve in his "The Remonstrance Against Oldcastle": "Prynce of preestes our lige lord yee calle / In scorn, but it is a style of honour." Selections from Hoccleve, ed. M. C. Seymour (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 68 (ll. 289-90).

(26.) For a summary account of Henry's relationship with Sir John Oldcastle, whose heretical beliefs ran him afoul of church authority, and to whom Henry showed great patience, see the introduction to Peter Corbin and Douglas Sedge, eds., The Oldcastle Controversy: Sir John Odcastle, Part 1 and The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1991). See also Alice-Lyle Scoufos, Shakespeare's Typological Satire: A Study of the Falstaff-Oldcastle Problem (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1979), 70-80. On the differences between tolerance and treason as motivation for Henry's acting against heretics (or supposed heretics), see Aston, 26-30. For a reconsideration of the Ficket's Field "uprising" of January 1414, though one that does not change the view of Henry as calculating, see Paul Strohm, England's Empty Throne: Usurpation and the Language of Legitimation, 1399-1422 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 63-100.

(27.) For a comprehensive view of these chroniclers and their works, see Antonia Gransden's seminal two-volume study: Historical Writing in England, vol. 1, c. 550-1307 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1974) and Historical Writing in England, vol. 2, c. 1307 to the Early Sixteenth Century (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1982). On the late medieval chroniclers and their methods and habits of composition, see Chris Given-Wilson, Chronicles: The Writing of History in Medieval England (London: Hambledon and London, 2004).

(28.) See Andrew Escobedo, Nationalism and Historical Loss in Renaissance England: Foxe, Dee, Spenser, Milton (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004), chap. 1, "Traitorous Martyrs or a History to Forget?"

(29.) Peter McNiven, Heresy and Politics in the Reign of Henry IV: The Burning of John Badby (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1987), 199.

(30.) Ibid., 202.

(31.) We might, however, turn this around and say that, from the perspective of Archbishop Arundel, Badby was in the right place at the right time.

(32.) McNiven, 195.

(33.) Holinshed, 3:49.

(34.) A Chronicle of London (London, 1827), 92. The most comprehensive account of Badby's interrogation by Arundel and the Convocation, as well as his execution, is in John Foxe's Acres and Monuments ( johnfoxe/main/5_1570_0623.jsp). With his customary alacrity, Foxe offers a thorough narrative of Badby's unfair treatment and the extent to which the religious and secular authorities made his situation an impossible one. Foxe softens the prince's motives, however, keeping the pressure on the Catholic authorities ("it happened that the Prince the kinges eldest sonne, was there present. Who shewing some part of the good Samaritane, began to endeuour and assay how to saue the lyre of hym, whom the hipocriticall Leuites and Phariseis sought to put to death," 1570, 623). It is, of course, more than charitable to describe Henry's presence as happenstance, and even more polemically suspect to allow him the role of Samaritan.

(35.) Foxe, Actes, 1570, 623. Foxe also inserts a woodcut illustration of Badby's burning, with what is apparently the Prince of Wales on horseback speaking to him (1570, 624). While it is perhaps risky to place any probative value in the illustration, the representation of the prince suggests a casualness that is not flattering and that does not compare with the drama of Badby's posture and state of suffering. The illustration here perhaps works against Foxe's mitigation of royal responsibility.

(36.) McNiven, 221.

(37.) Ibid., 217.

(38.) Beading Holinshed's Chronicles (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 132.

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