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Disestablishing Shakespeare

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In Henry V, Branagh is relatively unconcerned with the actual Elizabethan context of Henry V or the historical accuracy of the film. Therefore Branagh updates Henry V through reflecting modern values and also removes the play from its political context. In correlation to the trend of literary criticism, productions of Henry V have been prone to favouring the Folio text over the Quarto text. As Patterson notes the Quarto is not only shorter than the folio but their content and politics are radically different:

The two surviving texts of Henry V point in different interpretive directions; the folio can possibly sustain the hypothesis of ideological confusion or deliberate ambiguity; whereas the theses of Campbell and Tillyard could be better supported by The Cronicle History of Henry the fifth, the first Quarto version, which has long been ruled out of interpretative account by Shakespearean bibliographers, and placed in the evaluative category of the ‘Bad Quartos’, that is to say, beyond interpretive reach.

The Quarto versions of Shakespeare’s play have often been assumed to be memorial reconstructions or the products of piratical printers in league with avaricious players. However, as Patterson suggests the Quarto version may be closer to what audiences saw on the stage at the end of the sixteenth century. Subsequent critics and directors may have chosen to abandon the Quarto edition because it was convenient to do so along with the fact that it did not include some of Henry’s most stirring rhetoric such as “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more (III.i.1). Therefore the critical perception of the Quarto and Folio of Henry V indirectly informs the direction of films and productions of Henry V. As a consequence,...

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...mself. It is perhaps a virtually impossible task to make a play like Henry V relevant because of the rise of modern warfare and the fall of autocracy. The ideology that created Henry V may in fact be anachronistic to a modern audience. Maybe the play should be abandoned altogether as it seems impossible to subvert fully and promotes a militaristic and distasteful message. This may not just apply to Henry V as Thomas Healy boldly comments:

While Shakespeare allows us to re-examine our differing pasts in important ways, a sense can also develop of the inescapability of these pasts and the ideological structures the plays articulate, no matter how adapted for new productions. Is Shakespeare the ally we seem to want to make him? Perhaps, the time has come, not to dispense with Shakespeare but to disestablish him, whether as the voice of order or of dissidence?
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