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Here are a number of words that every one knows. But if we pass over them without thought, we shall miss a full understanding of the passages where they So one must put some study upon Shakespeare's language, the meanings of his words, and his grammatical constructions.



There are other lines of Shakespearean study which are most interesting. The text of any play offers problems that must be solved by somebody, if we are to know what Shakespeare really wrote. Lines of study offered by The metre always offers some difficulties the play. that cannot be settled, as most can, by a good ear and a habit of reading poetry. There are a number of allusions to things common in Shakespeare's day but unfamiliar now. Thus, when Pistol spoke of ‘plain-song" (III, ii, 7) he was talking of something familiar to every one; so was the boy when he called Pistol "this roaring devil i' th' old play ” (IV, iv, 73). There are a number of ideas that may be found elsewhere in literature: thus, the long speech describing the polity of the bees (I, ii, 183–220) has a parallel in Lyly's Euphues, and the two passages open a very interesting line of literary history, namely, ideas of nature in our older literature. And there are endless other lines of interesting literary study in this, as in every other play of Shakespeare's.

But it would be a mistake if we should allow ourselves to be distracted by these things, interesting or necessary as they are, from an appreciation and enThe poetic joyment of the poetry,—of the play itself. quality the Some of these things, as the language and the text, are, while we are studying literature, only means to an end. The language of Shakespeare, as of any other Elizabethan, is an interesting

main est.

matter for the student of language to work upon. It is a proper subject for linguistic study, just as the language of a nation is; and the student need have nothing to do with the poetry if he be so inclined. But the student of literature has a very different object, and with him the language is only a means to the end. So is study of the text. Other matters may have an independent interest to the student of literature: he may wish to have a clear idea of the mind of Shakespeare, of the spirit of the Elizabethan Age, of the development of the drama. Those are parts of the history of literature and good matters for study. But language and the history of literature, though connected with poetry, are matters very different from poetry. So if our aim is poetry, we shall want particularly to gain from the play true poetic enjoyment. And this will depend in a measure on our temperament and our taste. We may like poetry and read it eagerly; we may not care for it and prefer to read something else. But whatever our taste and whatever our temperament, there is something more than pure enjoyment in the matter. As with every art, indeed every game, we need some knowledge. We want to know what Shakespeare was aiming at. There are many kinds of poetry: we are quite accustomed to some; but in poetry of an older time especially, there are often conditions or circumstances that, if known, will give us the true spirit of the piece, which we might otherwise have missed. Now Henry V is an interesting play to read because it gives us an excellent example of one characteristic of the Elizabethan drama, namely, the rhetorical quality. It gives us this more fully than any other play of Shakespeare's and it gives it to us with less admixture of other things,

And this quality is one of which we do not have much on the stage to-day, and which we are therefore likely not to appreciate wholly in reading or seeing an Elizabethan play.

quality of the Elizabethan


The rhetorical quality of the Elizabethan drama was a result or a necessity of the character of the Elizabethan theatre. Every one knows that the theatre Rhetorical in which the plays of Shakespeare were originally given was very different from the theatres in which we may see them to-day.1 The stage was in the midst of the audience; a part of the audience even sat upon the stage itself. Therefore scenery or even any careful grouping of characters was impossible. The actors advanced into the midst of the audience, made their speeches, and retired. There was no front curtain, and the scenes followed each other directly or were separated by music or comic business. Further we may note that these actors on a stage without scenery were not costumed with historic accuracy. There were differences in costume, it is true; different ranks were indicated and some other distinctions, but there was no effort to reproduce the real spectacle of the stirring events that form the subject of the play. We ourselves might say as much as this from our general knowledge of the Elizabethan stage, but we have it also stated directly by Chorus in the Prologue to Act I. The appeal was not to the eye but to the imagination of the audience; and it was made by stirring and spirited verse, well pronounced by the actor. How important a good elocution and delivery was we may

1 A summary of the conditions of the Elizabethan theatre may be found in the edition of The Tempest in the Riverside Literature Series.

see from Hamlet's speech to the Players: there he is giving advice on the actor's art, but he hardly mentions anything but elocution.


Thus a Shakespearean play was more to be listened to than to be seen. Since realism was impossible, the dramatist was forced to use other means. And the audience, it will be remembered, could not Need of read, as our audiences do to-day. Even this rheamong the upper classes reading was not so quality. general as it is now. Probably few of Shakespeare's audience read much poetry. They heard poetry at the theatre, and for many of them that was the only way to get it at all. This was another reason why a declamatory style prevailed. So the Elizabethan stage tended more to poetry than ours does, and particularly to poetry which could be readily and effectually declaimed.

quality of

As has already been said, this rhetorical poetry is found more purely, as we may say, in Henry V than in the other plays. It is the tone of the play, the quality it is noteworthy for. All Shakespeare's Rhetorical plays have something of it, but many of them Henry V. are especially noteworthy for other things. Some are remarkable for character, like Hamlet; many for humor, like Henry IV; or wit, like As You Like It; some for passion, like Romeo and Juliet; some for fancy, like A Midsummer Night's Dream; and some are interesting for dramatic construction, like the Merchant of Venice. Henry V is not without these characteristics, but it has none of them to a very striking degree. The characters of the play are appropriate and natural, — Henry himself is a fine picture of Shakespeare's ideal king, but there are a hundred characters in the other plays better than the

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best in this. There are bits of humor, doubtless, and excellent of their kind. Fluellen is a humorous character that a lesser dramatist might be proud of, but we do not think of him as in the same group with Falstaff, Sir Toby Belch, the First Gravedigger, Touchstone, and many more. And so it is with the other characteristics: we generally find something of them in Henry V, but not something to compare with Shakespeare's best.

With the rhetorical quality it is not so. There are, without question, finer sustained speeches in Shakespeare than anything in Henry V. Any one who Sustained loves poetry and who wants to form a taste will do well to compare some of the famous long speeches in Shakespeare. We will note a few of the best known.

speeches in Shakespeare's plays.

Antony to the Roman Crowd. Julius Caesar, III, ii, 69 ff. Hamlet's Soliloquies. Hamlet, I, ii, 129 ff.; II, ii, 518 ff.; III, i, 56 ff.; IV, iv, 32.

Jaques' "All the World's a Stage." As You Like It, II, vii,

138 ff.

Othello, I, iii, 76 ff.
Richard III, I, i, 1 ff.

Othello to the Senators.
Richard III's Soliloquy.
Portia: "The Quality of Mercy." Merchant of Venice, IV, i, 178 ff.
Mercutio on Queen Mab. Romeo and Juliet, I, iv, 53 ff.
Enobarbus's account of Cleopatra. Antony and Cleopatra, II, ii,
190 ff.

These every one will recognize as fine bits of declamatory poetry of different kinds, of poetical rhetoric, we may call it. And in reading Henry V we shall see at once that we have much poetry of the same sort. In fact, if one reads the play with this point in mind, he will see that Henry's address to his soldiers (III, i, 1 ff.), or Exeter's account of the death of the Duke of York (IV, vi, 7 ff.), or the archbishop's account of the King (I, i, 24 ff.) are very characteristic pieces.

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