William Shakespeare’s “United” Kingdom: Henry V’s Captains and the Dawn of Empire
PublisherMonroe Community College
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AbstractPrimary historical accounts contain no indication that Wales, Ireland and Scotland participated in the battle of Agincourt in the way that Shakespeare portrayed in The Life of King Henry V. The captains are strikingly similar to individuals and groups involved in England’s past, present and future. Specifically, Fluellen seems to be a call-back to the Welsh troops at the battle of Poitiers in 1356, MacMorris a representation of Earl Hugh O’Neill (whose military ferocity caused the English to flee Ireland in 1599), and Jamy a reference to the transference of the English crown to the Scottish king, James VI four years after the play was performed. This essay explores the development of the sense of unity that would envelope the British Isles through Shakespeare’s representations of the nations that would make up the United Kingdom. The historical significance of the captains in the context of the rhetorically patriotic play sketches a timeline of British unification through cultural rather than violent imperialism. In reveling in and partaking in Henry’s proto-nationalism, the captains became something that was unheard of in 1415, as well as 1599: British.
- Scholars' Day Review