This work challenges the traditional view that Shakespeares Henry V is a celebration of nationalism, patriotism and war. Recognising that many commentators have sensed a thematic divergence in the play which contrasts militarism with pacifism and humanity, Merriam relates this divergence to the play's verse and prose. The verse is rhetorically inflated and manipulative in the style of Marlowe's Tamburlaine, while the prose consists mostly of comic irony which undermines the triumphalist ethos of war and tends to throw an unflattering light on Henry's warlike fustian. The likely explanation is that the play is a composite of an earlier one, probably written by Marlowe, the comic parts subsequently having been added by Shakespeare as his gloss on the original. The prose parts reflect a distinct Shakespearian viewpoint, such as is found in Troilus and Cressida, a play of a slightly later date, or King John, (somewhat earlier).
Various logometric tests are used to examine the writing and to see if divergence of authorship is apparent. It emerges that, whatever metric is used, the verse parts of Henry V appear to be atypical of other Shakespearian verse. Conversely, the prose parts of the play consistently coincide with Shakespearian stylometric norms. The verse is found to be much closer to the Marlowe norms.
The author concludes that we should be prepared to review the outdated belief that everything in the First Folio is purely and uncorruptedly Shakespearian, an unlikely fact given the co-operative nature of many Elizabethan plays. And that we should also see in this work a profounder and more coherent approach to the problem of power and kingship than the traditional interpretation of a triumphant and chauvinist Henry permits.
|Thomas Merriam. Marlowe in Henry V : a Crisis of Shakespearian Identity?|
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